UN honours fallen peacekeepers in CAR
The UN multidimensional Integrated stabilisation mission in the Central African Republic held a memorial ceremony on Thursday at the MINUSCA headquarters in Bangui, in honour of two peacekeepers who lost their lives in recent attacks in the country.
The ceremony was presided by United Nations Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, and African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, SmaÃ¯l Chergui, who are on a four day joint visit to the country.
Lacroix paid tribute to the soldiers emphasizing that their sacrifice must not be forgotten. "It is with sadness that I am here with you for a tribute ceremony to two of ours, two brothers, two brave young men in the prime of life, who came with enthusiasm, courage and determination, to help their brothers and sisters of the CARc and who, in the exercise of this noble task, have been killed by murderous bullets of those who refuse peace in this beautiful country, the Central African Republic," he added.
CAR descended into turmoil after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels ousted President Francois Bozize in 2013, provoking retaliation killings by "anti-balaka" militias, drawn largely from Christian communities.
Self-styled Muslim self-defense groups sprang up in PK5, claiming to protect the Muslim civilians concentrated there from ethnic cleansing.
While in Bangui, Lacroix had to respond to criticism of MINUSCA when hundreds of angry demonstrators laid the bodies of at least 16 people in front of the entrance to the UN mission in Bangui, known as MINUSCA. A local official said a total of 21 people were killed, including women and children.
The protesters accused UN troops of firing on civilians during operations in the PK5 neighborhood, a Muslim enclave in the majority Christian city. Speaking to Reuters during a visit to Bangui, Lacroix acknowledged there had been civilian deaths during the joint operation with Central African security forces.
During their visit, Lacroix and Chergui also met Central Africa Republic President Faustin-Archange TouadÃ©ra as well as prime minister Simplice Sarandji.
The UN and CAR officials discussed the issue of the recent violence in the capital. "We talked about the role of MINUSCA and the support it hs provided to the CAR. And as you know, we have not failed to mention the issue of km5 (district PK5), which today for us is not a question of religion, it is a question of policing and security," Touadera said.
"I'm very grateful to the Prime Minister for expressing his support for the Minusca and his condolences after the deaths of our two peacekeepers who were killed to protect the population. I remind you that MINUSCA acted those recent days as it always does to protect the population, and in this case, at the request of the population," added Lacroix.
Nearly 13 000 UN peacekeepers have been deployed to protect civilians and establish order in Central African Republic since the withdrawal of a French-led international intervention force in 2016 following elections.
However, the government has little influence outside the capital, ex-rebels and armed militias still stalk the countryside and there are regular flare-ups of deadly violence.