By Faith Nyasuguta
Russian military instructors aimed at civilians with outrageous force, random killings in the Central Africa Republic (CAR), a fresh United Nations report has shown.
‘The sanctions experts’ report to the U.N. Security Council also said they worked alongside CAR troops even in large-scale looting and occupation of schools.
Further, groups tied to the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebels allegedly indulged in forced children recruitment, ambushes on peacekeepers, sexual violence and even looting of humanitarian groups.
For years, Russia and France, which has some 300 troops in the gold and diamond-rich country of 4.7 million people, have been competing for influence in CAR.
It is said that Russia sent scores of military instructors to arm and train state troops against rebels.
“Russian military advisers could not and did not take part in the killings or robberies. This is yet another lie,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday responding to the allegations in the U.N. report.
Since 2013, the CAR has been war-torn following an alliance of majorly Muslim rebels dubbed Seleka who took power in March 2013.
For months now, the CAR army, supported by U.N. peacekeepers, Rwandan and Russian armies has been fighting against CPL rebels who want to overturn December polls that saw President Faustin-Archange Touadera take the lead.
One of the detailed allegations is that CAR troops dubbed FACA, and Russian instructors killed over six civilians at a mosque when fighting against CPC rebels.
“FACA soldiers and Russian instructors targeted the mosque despite the known presence of civilians and without respect for the religious nature of the building. According to eyewitnesses … no efforts were made to distinguish between civilians and fighters,” the U.N. experts wrote.
CAR troops and Russian instructors are accused of looting an aid group and stealing goods valued at $1,850, among them kits for sexual violence victims.
Russia informed the U.N. experts that as of April 18, some 532 instructors had been deployed to CAR.
The experts further noted “that multiple sources estimated that figure to be significantly higher, ranging from 800 to 2,100.”
Some of the instructors deployed are said to have claimed they hailed from Libya, Syria and elsewhere.
High ranking CAR and Russian officials informed the U.N. experts they knew the accusations but turned them down.