Rwandan peacekeepers in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui, over the weekend foiled an attempt by jailed militia leaders to break out of a prison.
According to the Ministry of Defence, Rwanda Mechanised Infantry Battalion (RwaMechBatt1) forces serving in the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (Misca) on Sunday halted an attempt by leaders of the CAR’s militias to break out of Ngaragba prison, located in the 7th arrondissement in Bangui.
The prison accommodates leaders of the Anti-balaka and Ex-Séléka militia groups.
“Riots started around midday on Sunday. Prisoners tried in vain to open the last metal door but our Forces successfully contained the riots after firing warning shots,” an unnamed Rwandan peacekeeper on the ground is quoted as saying.
The jailbreak was stopped “thanks to the vigilance of the Rwandan unit” in Misca, said a statement by the African Union peacekeepers.
The group that plotted the jailbreak was arrested in a mop-up operation carried out by the peacekeepers on February 15 in Bangui. Investigations are reportedly underway to trace the perpetrators of the jailbreak attempt. The director of the prison, Commandant Ibrahim Yabanga, was reportedly replaced by CAR authorities.
Earlier this month, Rwandan peacekeepers in Bangui were compelled to use live ammunition to disperse an armed mob that attacked a Muslim community and killed two people.
The RDF has deployed, under a UN Security Council resolution, 850 servicemen and women in the CAR as part of Misca. Working alongside French forces, they are operating under the UN Charter’s Chapter VII, which spells out the UN Security Council’s powers to use force where necessary to protect civilians.
In their 12-month mandate, Rwandan troops are charged with protecting civilians, stabilising the country, restoring State authority and creating a favourable environment for provision of humanitarian assistance.
The conflict in CAR erupted when mainly Muslim Séléka rebels launched attacks in December 2012. The conflict pits the Muslim Séléka against the Christian anti-balaka militia. Fighting intensified last March following the toppling of government by the Séléka rebels and the looting and killing spree in Bangui that followed the coup, forcing a Christian militia to emerge and begin reprisal attacks.
Thousands of people died in the ensuing melee compelling the interim Muslim leader, Michel Djotodia, to step down from the presidency. The country’s new President, Catherine Samba-Panza, is yet to end the violence but remains optimistic that the conflict will end if its real root causes are addressed.
Africa’s third woman president has repeatedly noted that the international community and media focus particularly on the religious dimension of the CAR conflict while disregarding the real sources of the conflict – bad governance and poverty.