(Nairobi) – The government of the Central African Republic and United Nations peacekeepers should urgently address sexual violence against women and girls by armed militia in the capital, Bangui. Human Rights Watch documented some cases in which perpetrators used rape to punish women and girls suspected of interacting with people on the other side of the sectarian divide.
The anti-balaka took our money and threw our vegetables on the ground and then one of them asked me, “Where are you going?” I lied and said, “It is for my family,” but he grabbed my throat and pushed me down. He raped me and the other women were raped as well…. Since then, I have not been to the hospital. I have not gone back to Boeing because it is unsafe. At both Boeing and M’poko there is no security.
On November 10, a 19-year-old woman left the camp to look for firewood in the remains of her home in nearby Fondo neighbourhood:
A group of anti-balaka found me and asked what I was doing there. I said I was gathering wood, but one said, “No. That is a lie. You were sent by the Muslims to spy on us.” I insisted that I lived at M’poko, but he said, “No, you sleep with the Muslims and since you came here on behalf of the Muslims, we will hurt you.” I tried to run, but one grabbed me and slapped me in the face…. My hands were tied behind my head and two of them raped me. I have not been to the doctor because I do not want people to know what happened. Since this happened to me my stomach hurts. When I think about it my heart beats fast and I get headaches.
On November 28, a 45-year-old woman from M’poko was taking manioc, a vegetable, to sell in the Ramandji market, in Kilomètre 5. Three armed anti-balaka stopped her outside the camp, accusing her of taking the manioc to Muslims:
One of the anti-balaka said, “I’m going to cut open your stomach.” Then he came and took the manioc from me…and they attacked me. One took me and held me by the arms. I was raped by three men.
She said she had not sought any medical or psychosocial care.
Around December 3, a 30-year-old woman left M’poko with her 3-year-old daughter for fields beyond Boeing, where she grows manioc. On her return, after she passed the airport runway, she came across a large group of armed anti-balaka:
The anti-balaka asked for money and I said I had none. One of them came and told my daughter to return to the camp alone. He said nothing to me, he just grabbed me and took me into the tall grass and raped me. I went home and told my husband, but he said he was embarrassed by me and he abandoned me. I do not want to go to the hospital because I am ashamed. I am nervous I will see the man who raped me and he will harm me again.
Around October 1, a 52-year-old woman left M’poko camp for her destroyed home in the third arrondissement to chop firewood from a tree on her property. As she was returning, anti-balaka stopped her in Fondo:
An anti-balaka said, “You, old woman, where are you coming from?” I was carrying wood on my head and an anti-balaka came and pushed it off. I fell on to the ground and hurt my knee. They started to kick me and yelled, “Beat her! She brings food to the Muslims!” They took 90,000 CFA (US$150) that had been given to me by the UN to rebuild my home. It was all the money I had left. They beat me and made me wait on the road. Finally they let me go and said, “If we see you again, we are going to kill you.”
In mid-October three women from the third arrondissement went to the market in Combattants neighborhood, near the airport, to buy vegetables. On their return, they attempted to take a shortcut through the M’poko camp. Anti-balaka surrounded them as soon as they entered the camp. Human Rights Watch spoke separately with all three women. One said:
The anti-balaka were yelling, “These are Christians who stay with the Muslims! Catch them!” They hit us and took us to the tent of their leader.… He pointed his pistols at us and said, “These are our sisters who married Muslims. Get them away from me before I kill them.” He said he would kill us by 5 p.m. if our families did not pay him and ordered us to be held in a small wooden shop near his base. While we were held his men yelled at us, “The only way to walk out of here is with your tendons cut or if you pay 100,000CFA (US$167).”
The women’s families arranged to pay 30,000CFA (US$50) and they were released. However, all three women reported that there were several other women held captive in the same kiosk, some with infants, whose fate is not known.
On November 22, a 35-year-old woman left M’poko to sell vegetables at Kilomètre 5. As she approached Fondo neighborhood, she was surprised by 12 armed anti-balaka fighters:
They took my money and threw my merchandise on the ground. They put me in a small shop near Nganafeï’s base and held me there from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. One of them said to me, “You know it is forbidden to go and sell to the Muslims. If we want we can just kill you.” My family heard I was being held and they came to see me, but the anti-balaka said, “No, if you do not pay, she will not leave.” They managed to collect 25,000CFA [US$42] and in the evening I was let go.
Witness Accounts, Kilometre 5, by Muslim Self-Defense Groups
On November 20, a 29-year-old woman left M’poko to go to work in her abandoned home’s garden in the third arrondissement:
I was gathering vegetables in the garden when I heard a noise. Then there were Muslim fighters all around me. Six of them came toward me. One said, “We are not going to kill her – we are going to rape her to hurt her husband.” One man then grabbed my dress and tore it off, another one took my slip off, and another pushed me to the ground. When I fell down two came and held my arms to the ground. One man raped me, then a second, then a third raped me. Then a fourth said he was going to take his part. After, I tried to get up. I fell and hurt my foot…. I was in shock. I couldn’t get up. I crawled on my knees. I found a young man. He asked what I was doing there and he transported me on his back to M’poko…. I am worried because I don’t know if one of my attackers was sick with HIV.
On November 28, a 16-year-old girl left M’poko for Kilomètre 5 to look for personal items at her family’s home:
As I was moving in the grass, I saw four Muslims. They were armed with Kalashnikov rifles and machetes. All four were from Kilomètre 5. When they saw me one of them said, “If you do not have sex with us we will kill you.” They took me and raped me. It still hurts me in my stomach. It hurts when I lie down in bed. I just try to sleep when the pain gets too much…. I am scared to go to the hospital because people will know what happened to me.