Central African Republic: the peace process and human rights are indivisible
GENEVA, Switzerland, February 21, 2018–From 6 to 16 February, the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic, Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, concluded an official visit to assess the impact of the African Union’s peace initiative on human rights.
“This process should include the prospect of a sincere dialogue between the government, armed groups and civil and political actors, including women, and local and religious leaders, throughout the entire territory,” said the independent expert.
She regrets that some armed groups invited to the negotiating table, including the Revolution and Justice (RJ) group, the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MNLC), the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) and the Popular Front for the Renaissance of the Central African Republic (FPRC), continue to disrupt peace efforts.
“The recent violence in Paoua and Ippy are unacceptable acts that call into question the commitment of these groups to the peace process. It is essential to end hostilities, protect human rights and prevent conflict.”
Keita Bocoum hailed a number of positive developments, including a pilot project to recruit former fighters into the armed forces; the gradual deployment of national security forces alongside UN peacekeepers from the MINUSCA mission; the establishment of the national commission for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and the ongoing restoration of State authority. While also noting the presence of the prefects and sub-prefects, notably in Paoua, Bossangoa and Bria, she called for their presence to be strengthened.
She also said there was an urgent need to reinstate the criminal justice system to control crime and impose penalties. “Mob justice is in effect replacing State justice in some areas, with people, mainly armed group members, inflicting cruel and inhumane treatment, usually on the vulnerable, elderly and defenceless, on the basis of witchcraft accusations,” said Keita Bocoum.
“I invite the Central African authorities with MINUSCA to do everything possible to end this mob justice, which is seriously affecting social cohesion.”
She added: “I am glad to see encouraging signs of the judicial fight against impunity, which have been heard countrywide, including the resumption of Assize Courts in Bangui and Bouar, the conviction of the former militia leader known as General Andjilo, and the imminent launch of human rights investigations by the new Special Criminal Court.”
Keita Bocoum said these efforts must be complemented by non-judicial mechanisms of truth seeking, such as inter-community dialogue to halt the worsening social divide and to lead to reconciliation.
“I invite the national authorities, civil society and their partners to look into a road map on transitional justice, to consider national consultations and collective reparations, and to ensure the non-repetition of conflicts,” she said
The independent expert also said it was important to engage young people in community projects, restoring the public space and generating economic opportunities. She encouraged the Central African Government to pursue these initiatives through the Recovery and Peacebuilding Plan (RCPCA).
“All Central Africans want to see priority given to health, education, security and economic opportunities,” she added.
“Humanitarian assistance, which must once again be praised, remains insufficient to meet the needs of the 2.2 million people requiring help. There has been a considerable increase in displaced persons since the last attacks, with about 700,000 people now waiting for peace so they can return to their homes.”
During her visit, the expert met the Head of State, members of the government, parliament, the diplomatic corps, civil society, non-governmental organizations and the United Nations, humanitarian workers, as well as representatives of armed groups, victims and displaced people in Bangui, Paoua, Bossangoa and Bria.
Keita Bocoum will report on her findings to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2018, in a session, which will also involve the Central African Government, civil society, the African Union and MINUSCA.