Rwandan peacekeeper killed in CAR as violence escalates


Two Central African Republic soldiers on patrol in the empty PK12 district, 12 kilometres from downtown Bangui.

Photo credit: Florent Vergnes | AFP

A Rwandan peacekeeper was killed and another injured in an attack on Wednesday morning by armed rebels on the outskirts of the city of Bangui in Central African Republic (CAR).

A statement by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the CAR (Minusca) condemned the attack, noting that the rebels directly targeted the peacekeepers who deployed in several cities across the country.

"Minusca bows before the memory of this peacekeeper who fell in the service of peace in the country and expresses sincere condolences to his family and to the contingent and the Rwandan government," the statement reads.

"Minusca strongly condemns the attacks by coalition armed groups and their political allies including former President François Bozizé. The Mission holds them responsible for the consequences of this violence on the civilian population and stresses that attacks against peacekeepers can be considered as war crimes and prosecuted."

The Rwanda Defence Forces said that plans are underway to airlift the fallen peacekeeper back to Rwanda for burial.

Attack repelled

"The attack was repelled but unfortunately one of ours was killed and another was injured. The injured will is in stable condition and will recover. Plans to airlift the deceased for burial are underway," Lt Col Ronald Rwivanga, Spokesperson of Rwanda defence Forces said.

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of the deceased. We strongly condemn the attack, which clearly targeted peacekeepers in violation of international peacekeeping rules," he added.

Violence has gripped CAR following the presidential elections that were held on 27 December last year.

The elections were disputed by rebels allied to former President Bozizé, whose candidacy was invalidated.

The Wednesday attack was repelled by peacekeepers together with CAR forces with the help of military helicopters, Minusca said.

Foreign workers flee

Authorities say more than 250 foreign workers fled CAR due to fears that they are being targeted by rebels who are disgruntled by the re-election of President Faustin-Archange Touadera.

Rwanda has up to 750 peacekeepers in CAR —  717 men and 33 women — who also provide security to President Touadera and government officials, on top of manning security posts and patrols in the country.

The UN mission said that some rebels were killed during the attack while some were arrested and weapons seized. 

This is the second time that peacekeepers are killed by rebels in election related violence after three Burundian peacekeepers were killed in an ambush on December 26.

Pushing for a rerun

While the government and international community declared the election a success, opposition candidates rejected the results alleging poll irregularities and violence, and are pushing for a rerun of the general election.

Rwanda last month sent a contingent of soldiers to CAR to quell election violence and protect peacekeepers following intelligence reports that peacekeeping troops would be deliberately targeted by the rebels.

The new contingent of Rwandan soldiers — sent under a bilateral agreement with CAR — are not constrained by UN rules of engagement that prevent UN troops from directly exchanging fire with rebels.

According to the humanitarian organisation Relief Web, election-related violence in CAR has revealed "major vulnerabilities that require rethinking the role Minusca and international stakeholders".

"The biggest weakness exposed by the polls is that 11,000 UN troops weren't enough to secure the vote across the country. It took the deployment of additional Russian instructors and Rwandan soldiers to help stabilise some of the voting operations," Relief Web said.

Up to 632,000 people have fled from CAR to neighbouring countries due to the escalating violence.

Rwanda has over 6,500 troops and police officers serving as UN Peacekeepers in South Sudan, Sudan, and CAR.


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