One peacekeeper from Rwanda was killed and another injured in an attack by armed rebels on the outskirts of the city of Bangui in the Central African Republic (CAR).
A statement by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA) in the CAR condemned the attack, noting that the rebels directly targeted the peacekeepers who were deployed in several cities across the country.
“MINUSCA bows before the memory of this peacekeeper who fell in the service of peace in the country and expresses sincere condolences to his family and to the contingent and the Rwandan government,” it said.
“MINUSCA strongly condemns the attacks by coalition armed groups and their political allies including former President François Bozizé. The Mission holds them responsible for the consequences of this violence on the civilian population and stresses that attacks against peacekeepers can be considered as war crimes and prosecuted.”
Plans are underway to airlift the deceased peacekeeper back to the country for burial, said The Rwanda Defence Forces.
While speaking to the press,” Lt Col Ronald Rwivanga, Spokesperson of Rwanda Defense Forces said “The attack was repelled but unfortunately one of ours was killed and another was injured. The injured one is in stable condition and will recover.”
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and friends of the deceased. We strongly condemn the attack, which clearly targeted peacekeepers in violation of international peacekeeping rules.”
The CAR has since been experiencing pockets of violence following the presidential elections that were held on December 27, last year.
The elections were disputed by rebels loyal to former President François Bozizé, whose candidacy was invalidated.
MINUSCA said. Wednesday’s attack was repelled by peacekeepers together with forces of The CAR with the help of military helicopters.
According to authorities, over 250 foreign workers fled CAR due to fears of being targeted by rebels who are disgruntled by President Faustin-Archange Touadera’s re-election.
Rwandan peacekeepers in the CAR are now totaling 750. 717 men and 33 women, who also provide security to President Touadera and government officials, on top of manning security posts and patrols in the country.
The UN mission said during the attack, the rebels suffered loss of life while some were arrested and weapons seized.
After three Burundian peacekeepers were killed in an ambush on December 26, this is the second time that peacekeepers are being killed by rebels in election related violence.
While the government of the CAR and the international community considered the election a success, the result was rejected by opposition candidates, alleging poll irregularities and violence. They are pushing for a rerun of the general election.
Last month, Rwanda sent a contingent of soldiers to CAR to protect peacekeepers and quell election violence, following intelligence reports that there will be deliberate targeting of peacekeepers by the rebels.
These new contingent of Rwandan soldiers – sent under a bilateral agreement with CAR – are not constrained by UN rules of engagement that prevent UN troops from directly exchanging fire with rebels.
Election-related violence in CAR has revealed “major vulnerabilities that require rethinking the role MINUSCA and international stakeholders,” according to the humanitarian organisation Relief Web.
“The biggest weakness exposed by the polls is that 11,000 UN troops weren’t enough to secure the vote across the country. It took the deployment of additional Russian instructors and Rwandan soldiers to help stabilise some of the voting operations,” Relief Web said.
Some 632,000 people have reportedly fled CAR to neighbouring countries due to the violence that has been escalating.
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