Nearly three weeks after more than two dozen people were killed in the worst fighting in the Central African Republic’s capital since 2015, what happened on that fateful day remains clouded by contradictions. On April 10, hours-long clashes unfolded in a flashpoint district, sparking a wave of anger at UN peacekeepers tasked with shoring up the volatile nation. According to the UN mission MINUSCA, the fighting began when a joint patrol of Rwandan UN troops and the Central African Army (FACA) was attacked on the outskirts of the PK5 district as they pursued a security sweep against militia groups.
Hospital workers say 27 people were killed and more than a hundred injured — a toll that mounted over several days as casualties were brought in. One of the fatalities was a UN soldier.
In a dramatic protest, local people brought in 17 bloodied corpses with bullet wounds the day after the killing and laid them in front of the UN base in the centre of Bangui.
They said the fatalities were simply unarmed civilians — a version fiercely contested by MINUSCA, which is struggling to overcome accusations of inaction and abuse by some of its troops in the past.
“We need to find out if it was the peacekeepers or the FACA who shot these people, and if so, whether they were unarmed civilians or fighters,” said an observer, speaking on condition of anonymity.
One of the UN’s most ambitious peacekeeping operations, MINUSCA deployed 12,000 troops and police to CAR, which exploded into bloodshed after the 2013 overthrow of longtime leader Francois Bozize by a mainly rebel alliance, the Seleka.
Bozize’s successor, Faustin-Archange Touadera, elected in 2016, can only claim to control a fraction of the country — the rest is in the sway of ex-rebels and vigilante militias.
One of the fatalities on April 10 was Oumar Ibrahim Bachir. “He was just a trader,” his uncle, Zubeir, said last Monday. “That day, he went out to buy medicine for his child at the Sambo pharmacy. He was shot in the jaw and in the back.”
“My son Abbas Mahamat Ali was repairing a motorbike when he was shot in the throat and the heart, around 4:00 pm,” Ousmane Sileyman said.
“He never worked for any self-defence group,” Sileyman added — a reference to the ex-Seleka rebels and the so-called anti-Balaka, a militia that emerged in communities.
Adam Kadjam was a basketball player at Bangui’s Red-Star Ndongo Club. “He was the most serious of the group, highly respected,” said the club’s secretary, Habib de Wilfried Mazangue, who said he was “devastated” by Kadjam’s death. — AFP