More Than 200,000 Displaced By Central Africa Unrest

Thousands of refugees are seeking shelter following violence in the Central African Republic (archive photo)

 

 

More than 200,000 people have been displaced by election-based violence in the Central African Republic in the past two months, the UN said Friday, with around half fleeing to neighbouring countries.

UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, said 100,000 people remained internally displaced within the CAR, while 92,000 refugees have crossed the river border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and 13,240 have fled to Cameroon, Chad and the Republic of Congo.

“Tens of thousands are facing dire conditions,” UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told reporters in Geneva.

“Refugees have told UNHCR that they fled in panic when they heard gunshots, leaving their belongings behind.

“Most refugees are living in dire conditions in remote, hard-to-reach areas close to the rivers without basic shelter and facing acute food shortages.”

He said they were dependent on catching fish and whatever food local villagers could spare.

For many refugees, the river is the sole water source for drinking, washing and cooking. Malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhoea have become commonplace, said Cheshirkov.

“Refugees urgently need food and shelter, drinking water, essential aid items, sanitation and healthcare to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other diseases,” he said.

Landlocked CAR is one of the world’s poorest nations and has seen a string of coups and wars since it gained independence from France in 1960.

Rebels controlling about two-thirds of the perennially volatile nation launched an offensive a week before presidential elections on December 27, trying to blockade the capital Bangui and carrying out several attacks on key national highways.

On January 4, President Faustin Archange Touadera was declared victor of the ballot, although the CAR’s political opposition cried foul.

Two voters out of three did not cast their ballot, mainly due to insecurity in a country caught up in civil conflict for eight years.

Within the CAR, the continuing unrest has hampered the humanitarian response and made access to the internally displaced more difficult, said Cheshirkov.

“The main road used to bring supplies has also been forced shut,” he added.

“Armed groups are reportedly present in the Batangafo and Bria sites where displaced communities are sheltering, in violation of the humanitarian and civilian nature of those sites.

“Such presence poses a grave protection risk for those displaced, from risk of forced recruitment to restriction of movement to extortion or threats.”

Rights Group Says Chadians Involved In Central African Republic Killings

A U.N. human rights team says testimony gathered showed that Chadian citizens, including peacekeepers, carried out mass killings during chaotic violence in Central African Republic.

The U.N. human rights office, on Tuesday, said that the team also found that the disarming of some Muslim fighters by French peacekeepers had the unintended side-effect of enabling their Christian enemies to kill them and their families in retaliatory attacks.

U.N. human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, said the evidence showed that intercommunal hatred had risen to “extraordinarily vicious levels”.

Neighbouring Chad has denied helping the Muslim fighters.

A Muslim rebel coalition, Séléka, seized power in Central African Republic last March, unleashing a wave of killings and looting that in turn sparked revenge attacks by the “anti-balaka” Christian militia.

The Séléka leader-turned-president Michel Djotodia resigned last Friday under intense international pressure, but sporadic violence has continued, despite the presence of 1,600 French troops and 4,000 African Union peacekeepers.

The crisis has sent food prices soaring, leaving many households down to one meal a day and 2.6 million people in need of U.N. humanitarian assistance, the U.N. World Food Programme said in a separate report on Tuesday.

The four-person U.N. human rights mission carried out 183 interviews between December 12 and December 24, mainly collecting testimony on a wave of violence since December 5, including summary executions, sexual violence, torture, disappearances, looting and burning of churches and mosques.

“Numerous interviewees identified the ex-Séléka perpetrators as being Chadian nationals,” their report said.

“Witnesses consistently reported that ex-Séléka wearing the armbands of Chadian FOMAC (peacekeepers) went from house to house searching for anti-Balaka, and shot and killed civilians, including children, women, elderly and disabled civilians.”

The team also heard multiple accounts of collusion between FOMAC and ex-Séléka forces.

The team’s report is the first batch of evidence collected by the United Nations, which is setting up a formal Commission of Inquiry to collect and investigate human rights abuses, and is a first step towards potential prosecutions.

Celebrations In Central African Republic After Leader Resigns

Thousands of people celebrated on the streets of Central African Republic’s capital after interim President, Michel Djotodia resigned on Friday (January 10).

President Michel Djotodia caved in to international pressure after failing to halt inter-religious violence.

As news from the summit reached the capital, thousands of residents took to the streets, dancing, singing and honking horns in celebration.

Cheers erupted at a camp for 100,000 displaced Christian civilians at the French-controlled airport.

A displaced man said that people were happy with the resignation but remained concerned over their security.

“A lot of worries because you still have people from rebels who have weapons. What is sure is that if the safety of the civilian population is not guaranteed, there will still be some harm being done, as we have seen lately,” said the man, who gave his name as Armand.

There was some sporadic gunfire but there were no signs of the pro-Djotodia fighters who once dominated the city.

The resignation of Djotodia and his Prime Minister, Nicolas Tiangaye, was announced in a statement issued by regional leaders at a two-day summit in neighbouring Chad.

Talks to decide on new leadership will take place in Central African Republic, it said.

Increasing Conflict In South Sudan, CAR Leaving Millions Homeless

South Sudan and CAR CrisisThe conflict in South Sudan and the Central African Republic is increasingly rendering many homeless and causing a concern for the United Nations, African Union and other individual countries that have stakes in both countries.

The UN has called on the factions to address their differences through an inclusive dialogue.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said that his recent discussions with the South Sudan President, Salva Kiir, showed that he was willing to engage in dialogue while the African Union has called for immediate cease fire, describing the killing of peacekeepers as war crime.

As the conflict escalates, several countries have begun evacuation of their nationals.

A U.S. evacuation mission was aborted when an aircraft on an evacuation mission was short at.

The number of deaths recorded has continued to increase in the country that gained independent from Sudan in 2011.

Elsewhere, in Central African Republic, the president, Michel Djotodia, has expressed his readiness to hold talks with the Christian Anti-Balaka militia, insisting that the country’s survival depends on disarmament.

He urged both the Christian and Muslim vigilante groups to lay down their arms and talk.

Amnesty International said that the number of death recorded in the recent attacks was twice higher than what was previously reported.

The Red Cross had reported that around 460 people have been killed in the violence.

But Amnesty said that the number was higher than that, as some persons prefer to bury their dead without taking the corpse to the Red Cross.

Despite the presence of French troops and other peacekeeping troops, civilians are still being killed on a daily basis.

Amnesty called for more international troops to stop the killings in the conflict that has left hundreds of thousands homeless, increasing humanitarian needs.

Nearly five hundred tonnes of food have been distribute the Central Africa Republic since the crises that has left more than 1.3 million people in urgent need.