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Growing Fears Human Rights Violations Could Undermine CAR Elections

Children look at an United Nations (UN) Bangladeshi soldier part of MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic) on the road to Koui, Central African Republic, on Sept. 24, 2020.

A U.N. independent expert warns growing human rights violations by armed groups in the Central African Republic risk undermining the December 27 election of the country’s president and National Assembly.

The investigator has submitted a searing report of the human rights situation in the CAR to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Yao Agbetse's report documents an extensive and growing litany of violations that affect every segment of the Central African Republic. Agbetse said armed groups, who have signed a peace agreement to end the country’s long-running civil war, are responsible for the overwhelming number of human rights violations.

Agbetse said sexual violence, including rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage linked to the ongoing conflict, is a major concern. He said all parties to the conflict continue to recruit girls and boys as child soldiers, and to brutalize them in horrific ways.

“Children continue to be victims of kidnapping, murder, attacks on their physical integrity, as well as sexual violence," Agbetse said. "Several armed groups continue to occupy schools and hospitals, thus depriving the local population of access to education and health care, including in the context of COVID-19.”

The independent expert said these appalling acts of brutality and lack of respect for the peace process are threatening the integrity and stability of the country’s upcoming elections. In certain regions, Agbetse said, it has not been possible to compile voter registration lists because of lack of security.

“Armed groups are deliberately blocking the voter registration," Agbetse said. "The elections commission needs to take necessary measures with regional and diplomatic partners in order to overcome this lag in finalizing the voter registration and publishing the electoral list.”

CAR's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Leopold Ismael Samba, said he agreed with this assessment. He said his government needs help to sort things out and stop the armed groups from harming the population. He said every possible measure needs to be taken to stop violence, which could undermine the forthcoming elections.