Three Burundi peacekeepers killed in CAR as rebels name off truce | Elections Information
Unidentified “armed combatants” have killed three Burundian peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR), the United Nations said on Friday, hours after an anti-government rebel coalition lifted a unilateral ceasefire and repeated calls for a planned parliamentary election to be suspended on Sunday .
The attacks on UN peacekeeping forces and CAR troops took place in Dekoa, Kemo Prefecture, and Bakouma, southern Mbomou Prefecture, the UN said in a brief statement.
“Three peacekeepers from Burundi were killed and two others injured,” the statement said, without giving any further details.
The attacks came as voters in the Central African Republic were preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections. This was seen as a key test of the country’s ability to regain stability after decades of political unrest and armed conflict.
President Faustin-Archange Touadera, who seeks another mandate, is the favorite to win the presidential election from a field of 17 candidates.
However, several opposition groups, as well as a recently formed coalition of armed groups – the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) – have called for the vote to be delayed after the Central African Republic’s Supreme Court rejected several candidacies for the election.
Those excluded from the competition include former President Francois Bozize, who was removed in 2013 after an uprising led mainly by Muslim Seleka fighters.
The CPC, established on December 19, made up of militia groups that collectively control two-thirds of the country, launched an offensive last week and threatened to march into the capital, Bangui.
The government called the move a “coup” and accused Bozize of fueling the CPC insurgency to disrupt elections.
The former president, who is under UN sanctions, denied the claim.
The progress of the rebel alliance has been halted with international aid: Russia and Rwanda sent troops to support the government of Touadera, while the UN mission in South Sudan sent 300 peacekeepers to the Central African Republic on Thursday to help the country “hold the elections to back up”.
The CPC announced a brief unilateral ceasefire on Wednesday, but canceled it on Friday, saying the government had “unconcernedly rejected” this “chance for peace.”
Hours later, the MINUSCA peacekeeping force announced to the United Nations that fighting had resumed in Bakouma, about 250 km east of Bangui. Armed men tried to drive down the main highways into Bangui but were stopped, according to MINUSCA, which has more than 12,500 uniformed troops in the country.
Three days before the elections in the Central African Republic @UNPOL #MINUSCA is stepping up its patrols and securing the voting card collection centers to calm the people of #Bangui and the regions. pic.twitter.com/8a66GfvbxJ
– Pascal Champion (@UNPOL_RCA) December 24, 2020
Touadera, flanked by Russian, Rwandan and UN guards in Bangui, has urged voters to come out and vote without fear on Sunday
“You are trying to get to Bangui. You Central Africans need to open your eyes, ”he told supporters at his last election rally. “Help our armed forces, the UN peacekeeping forces MINUSCA, those from Rwanda and Russia. You help us. Don’t let these armed fighters come into town. “
The President of the Central African Republic, Faustin Archange Touadera, speaks to supporters at a political rally at the stadium in Bangui, Central African Republic, on December 19, 2020 [Antonie Rolland/ Reuters]Several opposition candidates stopped their election campaign some time ago and called for the elections to be delayed.
Jean Serge Bokassa, the son of the country’s self-proclaimed emperor, withdrew from the race, citing safety concerns. Opposition candidate and former prime minister Anicet-Georges Dologuele – supported by Bozize – is now Touadera’s strongest challenger.
Catherine Soi of Al Jazeera, reporting from Bangui, said that people “have no appetite for conflict … and want to exercise their right to vote”.
“When you go to the countryside outside of Bangui, people are very scared. We hear of fighting in different places where people are being displaced, ”she added.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Wednesday that at least five civilians were killed, while the UN said more than 55,000 people fled their homes fearing attack.
In a statement on Wednesday, HRW accused the CPC of wreaking havoc, saying the groups that make up the alliance have committed war crimes over the past five years, “including the deliberate killing of civilians and the rape of women and girls and the deliberate destruction of civil property “. .
Meanwhile, Paul Melly, an Africa program official at Chatham House, said the CAR government is likely to disagree with the CPC’s demands and will delay the vote.
“The United Nations, MINUSCA and the government have made great efforts to mobilize the electoral process,” he told Al Jazeera from London, the capital of the United Kingdom.
“They have all registered, they have given out voting cards or have started to distribute them … a lot of people in Bangui want to exercise their right to vote.”