Fresh violence in northern CAR fuels more displacement and fear

Briefing Notes, 20 September 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 20 September 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In Central African Republic we have seen new displacement this week in the northwest of the country, sparked by new fighting there.

Heavy clashes were reported between Saturday and Tuesday between unidentified armed groups in and around the towns of Bossembele and Bossangoa, 150 kilometers and 300 kilometers northwest of the capital Bangui respectively. As of now fighting appears to have subsided in the area, but the situation remains very tense.

Yesterday, a UNHCR team arrived in Bossangoa as part of an inter- agency mission with OCHA, UNICEF, UNFPA, WFP and several NGOs to assess the extent of the displacement as well as the humanitarian needs of the affected populations in the region. People they met spoke of multiple abuses by both sides in the conflict, including murder, rape, and torture.

Further north at Paoua in Ouham-Pendé prefecture, UNHCR staff, on the ground since Monday, saw new displacement and heard further accounts of human rights violations. People were fleeing from a nearby village (Benamkouna) following rumours of a retaliatory attack over the killing of a local man. Colleagues say that people are also living in fear in Paoua where last week the town emptied after rumors of an attack.

People told us that those who returned to their villages had to flee again, and spoke of arbitrary arrests, kidnappings, extortion and illegal taxation by armed men.

In another village (Korozian), 35 kilometers from Paoua, we heard that relatives of people who had been arrested were being forced to pay ransoms of up to 200,000 CFA francs (approximately US$400) to secure release. Five children, who had been hiding in the bush without shelter during the rainy season, were said to have died of cold and malaria.

Despite the unstable situation, UNHCR is continuing to assist IDPs in Paoua either directly or through partner aid agencies. We are providing aid kits consisting of tarpaulins, blankets, sleeping mats, kitchen sets, jerry cans, buckets, soap and hygienic kits for all women and girls. Our distribution started yesterday and aims to reach some 3,000 recently uprooted people.

UNHCR continues to urge all armed parties engaged in fighting in CAR to take more effective measures to protect civilians and prevent indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks.

Violence in CAR since December 2012 has uprooted an estimated 227,000 people and forced into exile another 60,800 mostly women and children to neighboring countries (The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon and Chad).

For information on this topic, please contact:

  • In DRC: Djerassem Mbaiorem on mobile +243 81 880 6729
  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 34 83



UNHCR country pages

Central African Republic: Urgent Appeal

You can help save the lives of thousands of refugees

Donate to this crisis

CAR Crisis: Urgent Appeal

Make a gift now to help protect and assist those fleeing violence in Central African Republic.

Donate to this crisis

Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

Edwige Kpomako is a woman in a hurry; but her energy also helps the refugee from Central African Republic (CAR) to cope with the tragedy that forced her to flee to northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last year. Before violence returned to her country in 2012, the 25-year-old was studying for a Masters in American literature in Bangui, and looking forward to the future. "I started my thesis on the works of Arthur Miller, but because of the situation in CAR . . . ," she said, her voice trailing off. Instead, she had to rush to the DRC with a younger brother, but her fiancée and 10-year old son were killed in the inter-communal violence in CAR.

After crossing the Oubangui River to the DRC, Edwige was transferred to Mole, a camp housing more than 13,000 refugees. In a bid to move on with her life and keep busy, she started to help others, assume a leadership role and take part in communal activities, including the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. She heads the women's committee, is engaged in efforts to combat sexual violence, and acts as a liaison officer at the health centre. She also teaches and runs a small business selling face creams. "I discovered that I'm not weak," said Edwige, who remains optimistic. She is sure that her country will come out of its nightmare and rebuild, and that she will one day become a human rights lawyer helping refugees.

American photojournalist Brian Sokol took these photos.

Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Since January 2014, a funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 60 per cent in refugee camps in southern Chad. The reduction comes as thousands of refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in the south - more than 14,000 of them since the beginning of 2014. Many arrive sick, malnourished and exhausted after walking for months in the bush with little food or water. They join some 90,000 other CAR refugees already in the south - some of them for years.

The earlier refugees have been able to gain some degree of self-reliance through agriculture or employment, thus making up for some of the food cuts. But the new arrivals, fleeing the latest round of violence in their homeland, are facing a much harsher reality. And many of them - particularly children - will struggle to survive because WFP has also been forced cut the supplemental feeding programmes used to treat people trying to recover from malnutrition.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

Photojournalist Corentin Fohlen and UNHCR Public Information Officer Céline Schmitt visited CAR refugees in southern Chad to document their plight and how they're trying to cope.

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

A Central African Refugee's Reunion With Her Sons Brings Joy and Sorrow

The violence and conflict in the Central African Republic has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes since mid-December. Many have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, including 80,000 in Cameroon. During the trauma and confusion of flight, families often become separated. They face many dangers on the way to safety, and their journey can take many weeks. Ramatou, a 45-year-old mother of 11 children, was separated from three of her sons and her husband when militiamen attacked her village in January. She ran in one direction with eight children and eventually made it to Cameroon with the help of African Union peace-keepers. Her husband and three sons ran in a different direction and endured many ordeals in the bush, becoming separated again. Earlier this month, Ramatou was reunited in Cameroon's Mbile Refugee Camp with the two youngest boys. She was overjoyed, but dismayed that they were on their own. She still hopes for her husband and eldest son to turn up. Photographer Fred Noy was there at the emotional reunion.

A Central African Refugee's Reunion With Her Sons Brings Joy and Sorrow

Central African Republic: Displaced at HomePlay video

Central African Republic: Displaced at Home

The Central African Republic has been marred by conflict since December 2013, displacing more than 830,000 people. More than half are refugees. As a fragile peace begins to take hold, thousands of people are returning to CAR. Many, however, still face further displacement at home.
The Central African Republic Crisis: Hardship and ResiliencePlay video

The Central African Republic Crisis: Hardship and Resilience

As the conflict drags on in CAR, the UN refugee agency and its partners appeal for more support to help over 425,000 refugees in four neighbouring countries.
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.