UN peacekeepers are deploying to the north-west of the Central African Republic, where 23 civilians were killed on December 21 in a massacre attributed to the 3R armed group, the UN force said on Wednesday.
"The village of Nzakoundou was the target of a deadly attack attributed to 3R armed elements on December 21, killing 23 civilians", announced the UN in a press release, adding that the village had been burnt down and the rest of the population "fled into the bush".
The blue helmets of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (Minusca), whose number was not specified, "are progressing towards the village" with the aim of "reinforcing security in the area and facilitating humanitarian access to the population", the UN mission explained.
The 3R armed group (Return, Reclamation and Rehabilitation) is one of the most powerful of a multitude of rebel groups and criminal gangs terrorizing the population in this vast Central African country.
An umpteenth civil war broke out in the Central African Republic in 2013, when a Muslim-dominated rebellion, the Séléka, overthrew President François Bozizé, and the deposed head of state's camp launched a retaliatory Christian and animist-majority self-defense militia, the anti-balaka.
Fighting between these groups, in which civilians were the main victims, peaked in 2018 before the civil war, which had previously been very deadly, eased in intensity. Anti-balakas and Séléka have both been accused by the UN of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Armed groups from both camps then shared more than two-thirds of the Central African Republic until early 2021.
The 3R, ex-Sélékas, joined the Coalition des Patriotes pour le Changement (CPC) rebellion, which launched a vast offensive against Bangui in December 2020 in an attempt to overthrow the power of President Faustin Archange Touadéra.
President Touadéra called on Moscow to come to the rescue of a poorly-trained and destitute army, and hundreds of Russian paramilitaries joined hundreds of others present since 2018 to quickly help him push the rebellion and other armed groups out of most of the territories they occupied.
Without, however, reinstating the authority of the central government in certain remote areas of the country.
The rebels and criminal gangs continue to commit crimes against civilians and to harass the security forces and their Russian allies here and there - "mercenaries" from the private security company Wagner, according to the UN.
The latter, like the Central African military and armed groups, are regularly accused by the UN and international NGOs of crimes and abuses against the population.
Linked since 2018 to Wagner, which is now in the midst of a complete overhaul, the Central African Republic is trying to diversify its strategic partnerships and is now in talks with the American private military company Bancroft.