CAR: Government rejects allegations of rights violations

BANGUI, 21 February (IRIN) - The Central African Republic (CAR) government spokesman, Gabriel Jean Edouard Koyambounou, rejected on Thursday allegations that loyalist troops and their Congolese allies had perpetrated human right violations when they recaptured rebel-held towns in the north of the country.
In a communique read over state-owned radio, Koyambounou said a distinction should be made between innocent internally displaced people IDPs and the drugged youngsters who were recruited and trained by the rebels loyal to Francois Bozize, the former army chief of staff. In an earlier statement, Koyambounou said those who had been killed were rebel accomplices.

Government troops launched a counteroffensive against the rebels on 13 February, retaking the towns of Bozoum (384 km northwest of the capital, Bangui), Sibut, Kaga Bandoro, and Grimari (respectively 184 km, 342 km, and 305 km northeast of Bangui), and Bossangoa (305 km north of Bangui). Bossangoa, Bozize's birthplace, was the rebel headquarters until Wednesday when it was recaptured.

There have been many reports after the recapture of the towns that government and allied forces had begun hunting down Chadians, Muslims and CAR nationals suspected to be rebel accomplices. Thousands of people are reported to have fled the fighting into southern Chad.

Koyambounou said none of these operations targeted "any ethnic group or foreign community living on our territory".

The government's denial of rights violations comes just days after a French rights body, the Federation Internationale des Droits de l'Homme, lodged complaints with the International Criminal Court against CAR President Ange-Felix Patasse, Jean-Pierre Bemba (the leader of the Mouvement de liberation du Congo, a rebel group from the Democratic Republic of the Congo fighting on the side of the CAR government) and Abdoulaye Miskine (a former Chadian suspected rebel leader, now supporter of Patasse), accusing them of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Also speaking on Thursday on Radio Centrafrique, the minister of state for interior affairs, Jacquesson Mazette, told Chadian and Muslim communities living in the CAR that the government would guarantee their security. Then, he directed all administrative authorities whose zones have been liberated to immediately return to their posts.


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