At a time when peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic are already facing with sexual abuse allegations, a new report implicates soldiers of the mission of committing mass murder in the civil-war stricken country.
Human Rights Watch claims it has uncovered evidence that Congolese soldiers killed over a dozen people while serving as African Union and United Nations’ peacekeepers from December 2013 to June 2015.
In February 2016, the non-governmental organization exhumed a grave near a peacekeeping base in Boali and discovered 12 bodies. According to HRW investigation, they belong to a group of people who were arrested by the Congolese soldiers in March 2014, following a clash between peacekeepers and local militia leader Maurice Konoumo. As a result of the violence, a peacekeeper was killed and the arrests were made subsequently, including two children and a pregnant woman.
At the time, residents were told to stay in their homes. Witnesses claim they heard “screams and gunfire” later than night, from the same area where the graves were later found.
Prior to the discovery of the bodies, the peacekeepers maintained these people had escaped from detention.
“The discovery of 12 bodies is damning evidence of an appalling crime by Congolese peacekeepers, who had been sent to protect people, not prey on them,” said Lewis Mudge, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Republic of Congo authorities shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the mounting evidence that their soldiers committed murder in Boali and elsewhere.”
The murder allegation comes almost two months after the UN and French peacekeepers were accused of “sickening and odious” sexual and physical abuses in the conflict-plagued African nation.
Although the U.N. has said it would look into Human Rights Watch's murder investigation, chances of justice are next to none, since the intergovernmental organization cannot prosecute its own peacekeepers. A soldier guilty of committing a crime is sent back home for further investigation. Since no troop-contributing country wants a tarnished reputation, cases of misconduct are usually buried and forgotten.
Reports like the one released by Human Rights Watch prompt a lot of outrage but they can yield justice only if peacekeeping bodies like the African Union and the United Nations make crucial changes to their current structure that lets rapists and murderers walk away scot free.