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Diasporian News of Wednesday, 19 March 2014


Barrister Ben Muna, colleagues move into CAR to probe human rights violations

A UN investigation of human rights abuses in Central African Republic was launched last Monday in a bid to head off possible genocide.

The chair of the investigation, Bernard Acho Muna from Cameroon who was deputy chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, said he and former Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Jorge Castaneda and Mauritanian human rights lawyer Fatimata M’Baye were flying to the capital Bangui to begin the investigation.

Before departing Monday, Muna told reporters at the United Nations in Geneva that the mandate of the yearlong investigation of human rights abuses since the start of 2013 is to “stop any advances toward genocide.”

Flanked by M’Baye, Muna said their hope is that their presence in the country and the investigative work they plan to do will be a signal to propagandists and hate-mongers not to act on the fervor they whip up and “promote killing.” The leader of the UN mission said his team’s mission would focus on verifying the possibility of genocide taking place in the war-torn country.

“We are ready to take a firm stand to prosecute people who are already making hate propaganda,” Muna said, adding that genocide always starts with propaganda by persuading others that a certain population is evil and should be eliminated. “Genocide starts always with propaganda, convincing the population that this group of people are evil, they are bad, they should be eliminated,” Muna told reporters.

“One thing I can tell you from my Rwandan experience is that … hate propaganda … is usually a very bad sign,” he said, adding that there had also been reports of genocide.

In December, the 15-nation UN Security Council mandated an investigation of human rights abuses in the Central African Republic for an initial period of one year to compile information and help identify perpetrators with the aim of prosecuting them. Muna said an initial report would be made within six months.

Meanwhile, an international aid organization said dozens of people have been slaughtered in a remote village in Central African Republic and their bodies tossed in a nearby river. Caritas said the violence had taken place over the last two weeks in a village called Ouhman-Bac in the country’s northwest.

Father Aurelio Gazzera said between 30 and 50 bodies had been dumped into the river, and other terrified residents fled the remote area.

The massacre is being blamed on rebels from Seleka, an alliance that brought fighters together to overthrow the government earlier this year. Seleka officials have dismissed reports from human rights groups accusing the fighters of human rights abuses, saying the violence had been perpetrated by other armed groups.

The clashes in CAR have pitted Christians against a predominantly Muslim Seleka group. Early last year, Seleka fighters staged a coup and installed President Michel Djotodia.

Violence escalated again several months later as Christian groups began forming what they described as self-defense militias against Seleka fighters. The crisis led to the internal displacement of roughly 650,000 people and prompted at least 300,000 additional people to flee the country.

The French and African Union military intervention currently working on the ground has failed to curb the violence. The UN has also warned of a food crisis as over one million people are in need of immediate food aid.

“We don’t wait until genocide is committed and then we call for prosecution. I think it is in our mandate to see how one can stop any advances toward genocide,” Muna said.

The team has been conducting interviews with witnesses to the violence in multiple locations in CAR. They hope to draw up a list of suspected perpetrators by the end of their two-week visit.

The UN launched an inquiry into recent violence in troubled central African nation where fighting has displaced some one million people and left thousands dead.