UN soldier held for suspected arms trafficking in C.Africa

MINUSCA is one of the UN's biggest peacekeeping missions

The UN mission in the Central African Republic said Saturday it had launched a probe after the arrest of a peacekeeper suspected of trafficking arms in the perennially restive nation.

“A MINUSCA blue helmet in civilian clothes was arrested in Bangui on Friday by Central African police in possession of weapons,” the UN mission in CAR, known by its French acronym MINUSCA, said in a statement.

A military source said the soldier was Gabonese and was suspected of gun-running in the capital Bangui, where armed groups and security forces have repeatedly clashed in recent days.

MINUSCA said it “strongly condemned” any illicit trade in weapons.

The former French colony of 4.5 million people spiralled into bloodshed after longtime leader Francois Bozize, a Christian, was overthrown in 2013 by a mainly Muslim rebel alliance.

France intervened militarily from 2013 to 2016 to push out the alliance and then wound down the operation.

Last month, Gabon announced it was pulling out its 450-strong contingent from MINUSCA, one of the United Nations’ biggest missions with 12,500 soldiers. It was launched in 2014.

Gabon is one of nine countries whose MINUSCA troops have allegedly carried out sexual offences, according to internal case files reported last September by a US-based NGO, Code Blue Campaign.

MINUSCA’s mandate was renewed in December, with a pledge of 900 more soldiers to join the mission.

On April 3, a Rwandan UN peacekeeper was killed in clashes that broke out in Bangui in which 19 people died and several others were wounded.

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