Central African Republic: International Outcry Over Massacre of 34 Civilians

Central African Republic president Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona.

The killings on May 22, 2019 are the first major threat to the peace accord signed last February

The Central African Republic, CAR is still in shock after rebels from one of the 14 armed groups that signed the February 5, 2019 Khartoum, Sudan Peace and Unity Accord with the government on May 22, 2019 massacred 34 civilians and wounded five others. Radio France International RFI said the killings took place in three villages in Paoua, Ouham-Pëndé Prefecture in the north-west of the country, not far from the Chadian border.

Perpetrators of the gruesome attacks were from the "Retour, Réclamation et Réhabilitation," 3R rebel group of Sidiki Abass. AngeMaxime Kazagui, Minister of Communication and Government Spokesman, described the killings as "barbaric."

He said government, alongside MINUSCA UN peacekeepers, had ordered Sidiki to arrest and hand over the suspected culprits to the authorities within 72 hours. Else, the rebel leader will be personally held responsible for the massacres. 3R rebels were similarly ordered to dismantle their illegal bases and checkpoints within the same timeframe; "failing which necessary action will be taken against them." MINUSCA Spokesman, Ikavi Uwolowulakana, expressed regret at the attacks, saying their brutal nature showed that they were well planned and executed with efficient coordination. All this, he added, points to the determination by the assailants to cause the greatest number of casualties.

MINUSCA also stated its intention to take legal action against the assailants and their accomplices, saying their action could constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. Mankeur Ndiaye, United Nations Secretary General's Envoy to CAR, condemned the killings, vowing that the perpetrators will be tracked down, arrested and prosecuted. Agency reports said amongst those killed were the alternate parliamentarian for Paoua 1 and the official in charge of education for Kabo.

Local people demanded that government set up a commission of inquiry, alleging that defunct Séléka combatants were also involved in the massacres. Gen. Pascal Champion, who heads MINUSCA's police unit, told the press in the CAR capital, Bangui that meetings were underway in Koundjili and Lemouna when armed men suddenly arrived and opened fire on the people. The attacks were said to be in reprisal to the killing of a Fulani herdsman on May 10, 2019. The 3R rebel group says it is out to protect CAR Fulanis.

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