GENEVA (25 July 2022) - The UN Human Rights Office today issued two reports on extremely disturbing events recently occurring in the Central African Republic (CAR). One details a brutal, organised attack on a village by a pro-Government militia, while the second describes how specific armed groups have perpetrated recurring acts of sexual violence in a systematic and widespread manner.
Both reports are based on investigations by the Human Rights Division of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in CAR (MINUSCA).
The first report describes how a militia composed of fighters that were formerly part of a militia known as the “Anti-Balaka” carried out an attack on the village of Boyo in Ouaka Prefecture from 6 to 13 December 2021. It concludes that at least 20 civilians were killed, five women and girls raped, some 547 houses burned and looted, and more than 1,000 villagers forced to flee.
The militia used machetes in their attack on the unarmed civilians. They also held several hundred civilians for three days in the village mosque and threatened to kill them. The attack was seemingly conducted to target and punish the Muslim community of Boyo, which was perceived as being supportive of the Unité pour la paix en Centrafrique (UPC), an armed group engaged in fighting the Government.
The Boyo attack is one of the first instances in the long-running armed conflict when the Government, jointly with members of private military companies, reportedly trained and armed locally recruited youth and created militias to enter villages under the control of armed groups. With their knowledge of the area, local recruits, trained and guided by members of the armed forces of the Central African Republic and foreign private military contractors were able to reach the remote village of Boyo on foot and identify their victims, the report says.
“I strongly condemn these horrific acts. The Government must put an end to all violations, whether by its forces, affiliated pro-Government militias, or foreign private military contractors, and hold all those directly and indirectly involved to account,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
Based on multiple witness accounts, the report identifies former Anti-Balaka “zone chiefs” from the region as being responsible for most of the documented incidents.
The report concludes that the acts perpetrated in Boyo may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“As these proxies are ex-fighters from various armed groups or anti-Balaka, the possible consequences for the peaceful cohabitation of communities in CAR are deeply worrying,” said Hanan Talbi, director of MINUSCA’s Human Rights Division.
The second report is based on four investigative missions in Mbomou and Haute-Kotto prefectures, as well as the Human Rights Divisions’ regular monitoring and reporting work. It details conflict-related sexual violence committed from December 2020 to early March 2022 by members of the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC) and the UPC, both affiliated with the Coalition des Patriotes pour le Changement (CPC).
The CPC is composed of six armed groups that signed the 6 February 2019 peace accord (Accord politique pour la paix et la reconciliation en Centrafrique), but subsequently disowned it, deciding to violently boycott the 27 December 2020 elections and try to take power by force.
The CPC managed to gain control of several regions, including Mbomou and Haute-Kotto prefectures - a region rich in natural resources such as uranium, gold and diamonds – where they committed gross human rights abuses and serious violations of international humanitarian law, in particular sexual violence.
“The cases of sexual violence documented by MINUSCA in Mbomou and Haute-Kotto prefectures confirm that the FPRC and USP perpetrated conflict-related sexual violence in a systematic and widespread manner,” the report says. MINUSCA is still documenting cases in regions under the control of these armed groups, indicating that this pattern of violence is ongoing.
According to the information gathered during the reporting period, 245 women and girls were victims of sexual violence. Most of the victims, aged between eight and 55, were gang-raped. Some of the worst violence was committed in the town of Bakouma, in Mbomou prefecture, which was under the control of the armed groups until May 2021.
Victims were raped as they went into the bush or to the market to find food, the report says. Armed groups from the FPRC would also go looking for young women and girls in their homes and take them back to their base, where they would be raped or gang-raped. Some victims were released but others were kept as sexual slaves and repeatedly raped for days on end.
“This unprecedented level of sexual violence in CAR is shocking and heart-breaking,” said the High Commissioner.
“The brutal stories we heard from victims of sexual slavery and sexual violence depict crimes that should never have happened. Alarmingly though, they not only took place but are still being committed. These atrocities are utterly unacceptable and must be brought to an end immediately,” Bachelet said, urging the CAR Government to do take urgent steps, in full compliance with international law, to regain control over the entire territory and re-establish State authority under the rule of law. The UN Human Rights Chief acknowledged and welcomed the steps taken by the judicial authorities and other State institutions to investigate these allegations, while stressing the importance of ensuring all perpetrators are held accountable to break the cycle of impunity.
Both reports contain a set of recommendations, including urging armed groups to cease all attacks on and reprisals against the civilian population, including through acts of sexual violence, and to lay down their arms and re-engage in the peace process as the only viable path for sustainable peace and reconciliation in CAR. They also call on the Government to put in place concrete, effective measures to protect civilians and prevent future human rights violations and abuses in areas affected by violence and armed conflict.
Read the full Boyo report (in French) here: https://www.ohchr.org/fr/documents/country-reports/rapport-denquete-sur-lattaque-de-boyo-prefecture-de-la-ouaka-du-6-au-13
Read the full Bakouma report (in French) here: https://www.ohchr.org/fr/documents/country-reports/rapport-sur-les-violences-sexuelles-liees-aux-conflits-commises-par-le
For more information and media requests, please contact:
Liz Throssell + 41 22 917 9296 / [email protected] or
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Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]