UNHCR finds looting, empty villages on mission to Bambari in Central African Republic

Briefing Notes, 12 February 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 12 February 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

A joint UNHCR-Mercy Corps assessment mission last week to Bambari in Central African Republic, some 400 kilometres north east of the capital Bangui, found wide displacement on the approach to Bambari. Villages along a 100 kilometre stretch of road between Grimari and Bambari were almost completely deserted, with most residents hiding in the bush.

This mission is the first to the region since the mid-December 2012 takeover by the Seleka rebel coalition of the major cities of the north and centre of the country, including Bambari and Kaga Bandoro (around 400 kilometres north of the capital) where UNHCR has offices.

The villagers we managed to speak to reported aggression by armed groups seeking fuel, money and food. The visits of these groups are sometimes accompanied by violence against men and women, including beatings with electric cables. A village chief reported being flogged on 3 February by rebels who were trying to get him to reveal where villagers were hiding their possessions.

Camp Pladama Ouaka, located 10 kilometres from the town of Bambari, where some 2,000 Sudanese refugees live, has not been spared. According to our colleagues, community facilities, the distribution center, and the warehouse of an NGO partner, have all been looted. Solar lamps, that were used to light the camp, have also been taken away.

In Bambari, there has also been widespread looting, including of UNHCR's own warehouse. Tarpaulins, blankets, soap, mosquito nets, mats, jerry cans, buckets, clothes, lamps and solar panels for 3,000 refugees and internally displaced people in the area have all been stolen. Offices of UN agencies, including UNHCR and international NGOs continue to be looted and ransacked.

A similar situation is reported in Kaga Bandoro. UNHCR estimates the combined loss of its aid supplies and damage to its office premises in Kaga Bandoro and Bambari at US$316,000.

Access for humanitarian work in CAR remains very limited as a result of the lack of security guarantees, for both humanitarian workers and for people in need. In this context, it remains difficult to deliver assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons, and conduct activities for their protection.

UNHCR is appealing to the government and the Seleka rebels to facilitate better access for humanitarians to populations in need. We are also calling for the cantonment of rebel groups as stipulated in the Libreville accords signed on 11 January.

Before the current crisis there were some 51,000 IDPs in CAR. More people have been displaced since and, despite security and access constraints, assessments are ongoing to find out how many they are. The country also hosts a refugee population of 17,000 mostly of Congolese origin.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In CAR, Djerassem Mbaiorem, on mobile +236 72 22 35 11
  • In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 34 83
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

Central African Republic: Urgent Appeal

You can help save the lives of thousands of refugees

Donate to this crisis

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Crisis in the Central African Republic

Little has been reported about the humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the Central African Republic (CAR), where at least 295,000 people have been forced out of their homes since mid-2005. An estimated 197,000 are internally displaced, while 98,000 have fled to Chad, Cameroon or Sudan. They are the victims of fighting between rebel groups and government forces.

Many of the internally displaced live in the bush close to their villages. They build shelters from hay, grow vegetables and even start bush schools for their children. But access to clean water and health care remains a huge problem. Many children suffer from diarrhoea and malaria but their parents are too scared to take them to hospitals or clinics for treatment.

Cattle herders in northern CAR are menaced by the zaraguina, bandits who kidnap children for ransom. The villagers must sell off their livestock to pay.

Posted on 21 February 2008

Crisis in the Central African Republic

Silent Success

Despite being chased from their homes in the Central African Republic and losing their livelihoods, Mbororo refugees have survived by embracing a new way of life in neighbouring Cameroon.

The Mbororo, a tribe of nomadic cattle herders from Central African Republic, started fleeing their villages in waves in 2005, citing insecurity as well as relentless targeting by rebel groups and bandits who steal their cattle and kidnap women and children for ransom.

They arrived in the East and Adamaoua provinces of Cameroon with nothing. Though impoverished, the host community welcomed the new arrivals and shared their scant resources. Despite this generosity, many refugees died of starvation or untreated illness.

Help arrived in 2007, when UNHCR and partner agencies began registering refugees, distributing food, digging and rehabilitating wells as well as building and supplying medical clinics and schools, which benefit refugees and the local community and promote harmony between them. The Mbororo were eager to learn a new trade and set up farming cooperatives. Though success didn't come immediately, many now make a living from their crops.

Mbororo refugees continue to arrive in Central African Republic - an average of 50 per month. The long-term goal is to increase refugees' self-reliance and reduce their dependency on humanitarian aid.

Silent Success

Central African Republic: Crossing the Oubangui to Home and Safety

The escalating violence in Central African Republic (CAR) has caught everyone in its web, including refugees from countries such as Chad, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). For the Congolese living in places like the CAR capital, Bangui, or the town of Batalimo, home was just a short trip away across the Oubangui River. UNHCR earlier this year agreed to help those who wished to repatriate due to fear for their safety. The refugee agency has since mid-January facilitated the return home of hundreds of these refugees. The following photographs, taken earlier this month by UNHCR staff members Dalia Al Achi and Hugo Reichenberger, depict the repatriation of a group of 364 Congolese. The refugees portrayed were heading to the riverside town of Zongo in Democratic Republic of the Congo's Equateur province, where they spent a night in a transit centre before continuing to their hometowns. They were relieved to be leaving, and some were in poor health. The decision to return to the country they had fled during the years of civil war from 1996-2003 was not easy. Some 6,000 of the 17,000 Congolese refugees in Central African Republic have registered with UNHCR to go home.

Central African Republic: Crossing the Oubangui to Home and Safety

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African RefugeesPlay video

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African Refugees

The UN refugee agency and its partners appealed for more donor support to cope with the continuing outflow and deteriorating condition of refugees from the Central African Republic.
UNHCR's Dr. Paul Spiegel on the Border of CAR  and CameroonPlay video

UNHCR's Dr. Paul Spiegel on the Border of CAR and Cameroon

This video was shot by one of our staff* using a mobile phone as they helped refugees who had crossed the river to safety.
Central African Republic: Torn CommunitiesPlay video

Central African Republic: Torn Communities

For more than a year, inter-communal strife has displaced tens of thousands of people in the Central African Republic. But amid the violence, efforts are being made to promote reconciliation.