UN ‘mistakes’ behind Egyptian peacekeeper injuries, Russia says

Presidential guardsmen fired on bus carrying Egyptian peacekeepers in Central African Republic

Russia on Friday accused the UN of making “mistakes” in the Central African Republic that led to presidential guardsmen opening fire earlier this month on Egyptian peacekeepers, injuring 10.

The UN has condemned the CAR guardsmen for shooting at the newly deployed blue helmets as they travelled by bus near the presidential residence in the capital Bangui on November 1.

Addressing the UN Security Council on Friday, Russian deputy ambassador Anna Evstigneeva said leaders of the UN mission to the country, known as Minusca, were responsible for the incident.

"These tragic events were caused by mistakes that the Minusca leadership made while transporting people, among other things," she told council members in New York.

"We need to have a thorough investigation of the incident."

She also said she hoped the blue helmets "get well soon" and expressed "solidarity with them".

One woman was struck and killed by the UN-marked vehicle as it sped away from the scene.

A spokesman for President Faustin Archange Touadera said one of the bus passengers had taken photos of the building, a “forbidden” act. Guardsmen fired warning shots, some of which wounded the passengers, he added.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the shooting and demanded an investigation.

The injuries were the latest in a series of incidents to strain ties between CAR’s government and the UN mission, which has accused security forces of repeatedly violating the two sides' operating agreement.

The UN has called on the CAR government to cut ties with the Wagner group, a Russian mercenary outfit linked to the Kremlin, which is responsible for Mr Touadera’s safety.

Luis Carrilho, head of the UN police division, said on Friday that five peacekeepers remained in hospital in Bangui and one had been flown to Kampala, Uganda, for treatment.

He said the CAR government’s probe into the shooting should be “properly done”.

“We strongly condemn the incident,” he said in response to a question from The National.

“Shooting against the peacekeepers … could be considered a war crime.”

Council members renewed the mission’s mandate for one year in a vote on Friday. Russia and China abstained.

CAR, the second-poorest country in the world, according to UN figures, has been wracked by violence since the Seleka rebel coalition seized power in March 2013.

The CAR army, backed by UN peacekeepers, Russian mercenaries and Rwandan troops, have been battling the rebels in recent months.

This week, Britain’s UN envoy James Kariuki said the Egyptian casualties were a “stark reminder of the difficult circumstances in which we deploy our peacekeepers”.

He praised their “dedication and courage” and said “lessons can be learnt” from the incident.

Updated: November 12th 2021, 9:54 PM