A UN peacekeeper has been killed in the Central African Republic (CAR) just weeks after the United Nations took over peacekeeping efforts in the country, a UN spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.
A Pakistani member of the force deployed on Sept. 15 died in an assault on a convoy in the PK-11 neighborhood of the capital city, Bangui, Dorian Lacombe, a spokesperson for the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations, said. Seven other peacekeepers were also injured, including three Bangladeshi soldiers and four Pakistanis.
The UN took over peacekeeping operations in CAR from the the African Union, France, and European Union last month. In total, there are due to be 10,000 military personnel on the ground in CAR under the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
The vast majority of the 5,000-strong international forces are based in the capital Bangui, yet their presence was not enough to prevent a gruesome attack on Wednesday, when members of a militia accused of committing atrocities across the country lynched a man in Bangui.
The members of the majority Christian anti-balaka militia pursued the man in Bangui because they suspected him of "having thrown a grenade from a bus into a market, injuring several," Reuters reported. Once caught, the mob decapitated the man, presumed to be a Muslim, and burned his body.
Peacekeepers had "fired shots in the air" in PK-5 to restore calm, Reuters reported.
The Red Cross then brought his body from the area of the market to the majority Muslim PK-5 neighborhood for burial. Even that process was marred by violence as "volunteers and emergency services were subjected to direct threats, stemming from a misunderstanding by some people of their activities recovering bodies, thereby blocking their work."
The ensuing retaliation for the man's death killed at least one other, a taxi driver, bringing the death toll in the city's sectarian clashes since Sept. 27 to seven.
Lacombe, the UN peacekeeping spokesman, told BuzzFeed News that the situation in the market escalated too quickly for the peacekeepers to prevent the reported civilian casualties.
Now "police from MINUSCA are patrolling the city in Bangui," he said, adding that the situation in PK-5 was still tense though quieter than before. "[The idea] is to maintain police presence on the streets."
The deployment time of the various operations on the ground has been a particular issue, Evan Cinq-Mars of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect told BuzzFeed News, one that has plagued civilians in CAR as a result. "We see that they unfortunately do not get their fast enough to prevent these outbreaks from getting out of control."
"I think this particular instance is quite telling," Cinq-Mars said, as tensions have been building in Bangui as a result of the various demands from both sides in the fighting for interim president Catherine Samba-Panza to step down.
"My main question is: where is the early warning and prevention on this?" he asked. "This violence should not have come as a surprise. I think some serious questions need to be raised about how these different international forces are acting on the information they receive and what kind of analysis their doing to prepare for various scenarios."
Needless to say, overall the attempts to restore peace and order are not going well.
The country has essentially been divided in two as a result of over a year of violence, with the capital now almost entirely cleared of Muslims.
Civilians and anti-balaka members alike have frequently targeted Muslims, acting under the belief that their targets are former members of the Seleka rebel group. The mostly Muslim members of the Seleka conquered the Central African Republic in 2013 and loot and plunder their way across the country for months. In December, clashes between the ex-Seleka and anti-balaka boiled over, leading to the death of thousands. Since then, both sides have reportedly committed atrocities against civilians, leading to the de facto split of the country between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south, a situation that former Seleka members want to make permanent.
Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Hayes Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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