At least 17 killed and 27 missing after attack on Bangui church sheltering the displaced

Briefing Notes, 30 May 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 30 May 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In the Central African Republic, an attack in Bangui on Wednesday on the Notre Dame de Fatima church has resulted in the deaths of at least 17 people and 27 civilians reportedly abducted by assailants who drove them to an unknown location.

The attackers who arrived in pick-up trucks in the early afternoon threw grenades into the church ground before opening fire on people, using small arms. Those killed during the attack include a priest. Two children and two adults also succumbed to their injuries on Thursday.

At the time of the attack, Notre Dame de Fatima was hosting 9,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), including 2,050 who moved there only a week earlier to escape from a recent rise in insecurity in nearby neighborhoods. Others had been staying there since December 2013.

UNHCR strongly condemns this attack against innocent civilians. We call again all sides of the armed conflict to protect civilians, in line with their obligations under international law. We also call on all sides of the conflict to allow for the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance and unhindered access to the people in need of protection and aid.

Insecurity in the CAR's capital has increased drastically since last weekend. On Sunday 25 May, three people were killed in the PK5 neighborhood, purportedly by Anti-Balaka elements, while they were heading to an inter-communal reconciliation football match. On Monday and Tuesday, the situation remained tense and shootings were reported. On Wednesday, inter-communal hostilities culminated with the attack at Notre Dame de Fatima, which is now totally empty. The attack is among the worst on any IDP site in Bangui since the Seleka group was removed from power in January 2014.

Churches, monasteries and mosques have till now been safe havens for IDPs across CAR. In Bangui where the security situation remains tense, 32 out of 43 IDP sites are religious institutions.

Those who fled from Notre Dame de Fatima have either moved to the surrounding neighborhoods or southwards towards ten sites in Bangui and the adjacent area of Bimbo. Many fled without anything no money, no food, not even a mat to sleep on. Others had bullet wounds that need to be attended to urgently. Compounding their hardship, the overcrowded IDP sites they moved to face shortages in water, food, shelter and basic healthcare.

The second half of the month of May was also violent in other parts of CAR. In Bambari for example, in the Ouaka province, clashes erupted on May 21 and 24 between French Sangaris elements and armed civilians over the implementation of confidence-building measures and the cantonment of ex-Seleka forces.

Meanwhile, UNHCR partners have documented progressive returns in zones of the northwestern Ouham-Pende and the northern Ouham provinces. With the mixed displacement trends, the overall number of IDPs remains at 557,000 across CAR, including 132,000 in Bangui. Since December 2013, nearly 121,000 CAR refugees have fled to neighbouring countries.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Bangui, Akatrina Kitidi on mobile : +236 72 68 4828
  • In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune on mobile +41 79 249 34 83
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Central African Republic: Urgent Appeal

You can help save the lives of thousands of refugees

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

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.