4 Mar 2014

Sobering reading: UN report on Central African Republic

Here at Channel 4 News we try hard to keep the plight of people in the Central Africa Republic on the radar, whether we are reporting from the country or not.

Monday’s UN report on the latest state of things in that country makes for sobering reading.


Here is the UN summary of how life is:

“Violations that may amount to international crimes have become widespread not only in Bangui (the capital) but across the country, including serious violations of the right to life, physical integrity, property, arbitrary detention, summary execution of civilians, indiscriminate firing on civilians, sexual violence and rape; and grave violations against children such as their recruitment and use, killing and maiming and sexual violence.

“In addition, civilians have increasingly become involved in violence, including killing and looting, in an environment marked by fear , hatred and total impunity as well as socio-economic deprivation . Deliberate and targeted violence forcing Muslim populations to flee may amount to the crimes against humanity of forced displacement and/or persecution.”

Read more: extreme violence and religious hatred – another day in CAR

The report notes the power-shift from the former Seleka – largely Muslim – militia, responsible for serious human rights violations and mass murder until December 2013, when they were defeated after days of fighting by the Christian anti-balaka movement:

“The anti-balaka – an association of local defence groups, rogue elements of the Forces Armées Centrafricaines (FACA) and criminal elements – are reportedly becoming increasingly organized in Bangui and other parts of the country and have access to firearms and heavy weapons.

“While their structure remains unclear, threats emanating from anti-balaka elements go well beyond law and order issues. According to both the French Operation Sangaris and SCA, the anti-balaka now represent the main threat to civilians.”

Two critical changes are noted here. First, their access to heavy weapons and that they now constitute the biggest threat to civilians.

So what of daily life in the capital, almost completely unreported in the UK?

“Killings are reported daily in Bangui. Violence in the capital reached gruesome levels of cruelty including public mutilation of corpses, dismemberment and beheading with total impunity. Targeted attacks by anti-balaka prevent Muslims from moving out of the few neighbourhoods where they are regrouped. By now, the vast majority of the Muslim population Bangui have fled and those who remain live under international protection.”

And this pattern extends now over much of the country, amounting to what is a religious shift in population on a major scale:

“However, over the past weeks, the ethnic and religious demography of the country has changed radically. Given the intensity of the violence, many Muslims have fled the country, mostly to Chad and Cameroon, or toward the north eastern part of the Central African Republic. Numerous formerly multi confessional towns such as Yaloke, Bossemptele, Bozoum and Mbaiki have been emptied of their Muslim communities.”

Read more: preventing a bloodbath in CAR after the president’s resignation

This process, the result of the violence, is leaving what aid groups exist on the ground, working in the mix of a terrible and almost daily dilemma:

“At present, more than 15,000 Muslims seeking to flee to safety are sheltering in 18 locations in different parts of the country, at risk of grievous violence if they leave. In numerous places in the northwest, west and centre of the country, their lives depend on MISCA and Sangaris protection. Humanitarian actors now face a dilemma between encouraging people to stay in their communities thereby endangering their lives, or assisting them to flee for their own safety, thereby indirectly contributing to the sectarian division of the country.

“Vulnerable groups, notably women, children and the elderly, continue to be affected disproportionately. Since last November, cases of sexual violence perpetrated by armed men largely believed to be ex-Seleka, have been reported in Bangui, Boali, Bossem Ptele, Damara, Mbaiki, Sibut and the prefecture of Ouham Pende.

“During the 5 and 6 December events in Bangui, numerous rapes, including gang rapes, were reportedly carried out by ant-balaka and ex-Seleka elements, notably during house-to-house searches and retaliatory attacks. Forced marriages involving children were also reported, mainly perpetrated by ex-Séléka elements.

Read more: what does the new year hold for CAR?

“Accounts of sexual violence, including rapes, were reported at IDP sites. Abduction of women and sexual slavery has also been reported in the countryside. The grave human rights violations committed against children are alarming, particularly reports of recruitment into armed groups.

“Though precise numbers are difficult to establish, there is evidence that previous figures of 3,500 children in Seleka ranks as of March 2013 may have increased to up to 6,000 children potentially associated with armed groups. Anti-balaka elements are also reportedly recruiting children. Health centres and schools have been looted across the country and often remain closed, disrupting children’s access to education and healthcare.”

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