Central African Republic’s minister for youth and sport was kidnapped on Sunday by gunmen in the capital, Bangui, and a second minister narrowly escaped capture in a town to the north, officials said.
The seizure of Armel Ningatoloum Sayo follows the brief kidnapping earlier this week of a U.N. staff member and a French charity worker, highlighting insecurity in the country despite the presence of French and U.N. peace keepers.
Tatiana Yangeko, Sayo’s spokeswoman, said the minister was driving his wife and his brother back from church when four unidentified gunmen in a taxi stopped their vehicle in Bangui’s 8th arrondissement, in the north of the capital.
After spending four days in captivity at the hands of anti-Balaka vigilantes, a cleric and a French aid worker were released by their captors on January 23.
According to the World Watch Monitor, Gustave and Claudia Priest were released by their captors after successful negotiations led by Bangui Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga and Evangelical Alliance President and Rev. Nicolas Guérékoyamé Gbangou of the Christians and Muslims Platform.
Gustave works for the diocesan humanitarian organisation CODIS while Priest heads her own charitable organisation.
Gustave and Priest were kidnapped by anti-balaka militiamen on January 19 while returning to Bangui. The two victims and a third individual, named only as Elkana, had come from Damara. Four armed gunmen were waiting for them at the church at Bangui’s 4th district and took them from their vehicle at gunpoint.
The anti-balakas are Christian vigilantes who are violently pursuing the remnants of the disbanded Seleka coalition, which previously led the Central African Republic. The Seleka coalition had engaged in violence against Christians from March 2013 until early 2014 when a new government was set up in the Central African Republic.
Elkana managed to extricate himself from the situation and escaped. Gustave and Priest were kidnapped and taken to anti-balaka stronghold Boy Rab. Their possessions, including money, the vehicle they were in and the medicine that it carried, were taken by the militiamen who demanded the release of Rodrigue Ngaibona, an anti-balaka militia leader that was arrested by United Nations peacekeepers on January 18.
Strongly condemning the resurgence of deadly violence across the Central African Republic (CAR), the United Nations Security Council today reinvigorated its sanctions against those individuals implicated in the country’s ongoing sectarian tensions which have pushed it to the brink of all-out conflict.
In today’s unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member Council expressed ‘grave concern’ at the continuing destabilization of the CAR by armed groups, warning that the situation poses ‘a permanent threat to the peace, security and stability of the country’ while also constituting a threat to international peace and security in the region.
The Council renewed a series of sanctions targeting all individuals involved in undermining ‘the peace, stability and security of the CAR,’ calling on all Member States to maintain a series of measures, including an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze which would continue until 29 January 2016.
More than two years of civil war and sectarian violence have displaced thousands of people in the CAR amid continuing clashes between the mainly Muslim Séléka alliance and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian.
Among the severe concerns afflicting the country, noted the Council, is the ‘continuous cycle of provocations and reprisals by armed groups,’ repeated human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, sexual violence, and the denial of humanitarian access to the thousands of people affected by the worsening security conditions.
According to UN estimates, nearly 440,000 people remain displaced inside the country while some 190,000 have sought asylum across the borders. At the same time, more than 36,000 people – including the Peuhl ethnic group – remain trapped in enclaves across the country, hoping to find asylum in neighbouring States.
On that note, the Council Members stressed the ‘urgent and imperative’ need to end impunity in the CAR and reiterated the need for all perpetrators of violent acts to be held accountable, noting that some acts “may amount to crimes” under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
UN News Centre