Hundreds of angry demonstrators on Wednesday laid the corpses of at least nine people killed in recent clashes in Central African Republic’s capital Bangui in front of the headquarters of the UN’s mission, a Reuters witness said.
The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), said late on Tuesday that one Rwandan UN soldier was killed.
The mission said eight others were wounded in clashes with armed groups in the PK5 neighbourhood, a Muslim area of the majority Christian city.
NAN reports that on Tuesday, a source said peacekeepers from the UN mission along with Central African troops
have since Sunday been carrying out a “disarmament and arrest” operation against armed groups in Bangui.
At least 46 people have been injured in fierce armed clashes in the enclave, according to aid group Medecins
Sans Frontieres which has treated the majority of casualties.
The security source told AFP the peacekeeper was killed when a Minusca patrol was ambushed by rebel gunmen on
the outskirts of the PK5 neighbourhood on Tuesday afternoon.
On April 1, UN peacekeepers exchanged fire with members of an armed group in PK5, the first attack on troops since violence resumed in the neighbourhood in 2017.
On Sunday, gunfire was exchanged after UN troops were targeted near the president’s residence in Bangui,
just hours after UN and Central African forces launched the joint operation targeting armed groups in PK5.
At least two people were killed and dozens wounded during the “disarmament and arrest” operation on Sunday, according to UN and medical sources.
Minusca spokesperson Herve Verhoosel said 11 peacekeepers, mostly Egyptian, were among the injured.
MINUSCA said the joint force raided the bases of several groups, resulting in the seizure of arms, ammunition, and drugs.
Eight people belonging to the armed groups Force and 50/50 were detained, Verhoosel told AFP.
PK5’s population was previously supportive of the armed groups, which came from a desire to protect their neighbourhoods in the country’s civil war, recently they have been accused of intimidation and of extorting protection money, and Minusca considers them criminal.
Minusca said it would dismantle all the armed groups’ bases unless they hand over their weapons, but the groups’ leaders refused, despite a mediation organized by community leaders.
“This joint operation will continue until the criminal groups of PK5 are dismantled or otherwise disappear,” Minusca said.
Although rich in diamonds, gold, oil and uranium, the former French colony has one of the world’s poorest populations, and has been blighted by violence and instability since gaining independence in 1960.
In March 2013, Séléka, a mainly Muslim alliance, overthrew CAR’s leader Francois Bozizé, which led to a spiral of violence between Muslim and Christian militias in which thousands died.
Many joined the mainly-Christian anti-balaka militia to fight the Seleka rebels.
Muslims either fled the capital or took refuge in PK5, where the population funded the creation of their own self-defence groups, most of whom were former Seleka rebels, to defend from anti-balaka vigilante attack.
The weak government only controls around a fifth of the Central African Republic.
The rest of the territory is controlled by militia groups. President Faustin-Archange Touadera, a former prime minister who campaigned as a peacemaker, was declared the winner of a 2016 election perceived as crucial to transitioning from years of sectarian violence.
Launched in 2014, Minusca is considered one of the UN’s most dangerous peacekeeping missions.
On April 2, one UN peacekeeper from Mauritania was killed and 11 others were wounded and more than 22 anti-balaka fighters were killed when a temporary UN base in Tagbara came under heavy militia attack.
Minusca said it later discovered the bodies of 21 civilians, including four women and four children, near a church, and that the deaths resulted from a separate incident that used “traditional weapons,” indicating machetes or knives.