Renewed conflict in central CAR's Bambari displaces thousands of people

Briefing Notes, 27 June 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 27 June 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

At least 45 people have been killed this week and scores wounded in new violence and reprisal attacks in and around Bambari in Central African Republic. The troubles have resulted in thousands more people fleeing to displacement sites around the town, which lies some 380 kilometres northeast of the capital Bangui.

The violence began early on Monday when armed elements attacked a camp just south of Bambari housing Muslims from the Peul ethnic group. The attack prompted retaliation inside Bambari against other armed elements and the civilian population.

UNHCR staff say that by Wednesday Bambari had been reduced to a ghost city. Christian neighbourhoods have been emptied of residents from previous fighting, while displacement sites are packed with people struggling to get by amid the rainy season. People urgently need better protection, shelter, water and sanitation, as well as food and other items. UNHCR is sending in non-food items, mainly tarpaulins. However, the security situation remains volatile and there are fears that the cycle of revenge will pick up again soon.

Tension has been at boiling point in Bambari since May, when widespread fighting displaced more than 13,000 people. Armed groups have continued fighting since and attacking the local population. Tens of people have been killed or injured, and hundreds of homes have been razed. Prices of basic goods are meanwhile soaring, and displaced people are returning repeatedly to the IDP sites.

The resumed cycle of conflict has also halted many activities at the nearby refugee camp of Pladama Ouaka, situated just 10 km away from Bambari. The camp hosts approximately 1,960 Sudanese refugees people who fled to Central African Republic in 2007 due to fighting in Sudan's Darfur region. This week's fighting has restricted the refugees' movements in the area even further than previously. UNHCR is doing what it can to help their situation in cooperation with national and international partners. In all, there are approximately 10,667 refugees and asylum seekers in the CAR.

As of 20 June some 139,393 people from Central African Republic have sought refuge in Cameroon, DRC, Chad and the Republic of Congo since December 2013. Most of the people are seeking refuge in Cameroon (106,119), where last week UNHCR registered over 3000 people.

In other areas of the country, the situation remains precarious. In the northern prefectures of Ouham and Ouham-Pende, insecurity threatens humanitarian access. The city of Bang, near the borders with Chad and Cameroon was under the control of armed groups until 22 June. On the same day, fighting in the city of Batangafo led to the displacement more than a thousand people. Lastly, in the northern-eastern city of Birao, armed elements took control of the airfield on 23 June. The number of displaced in the Central African Republic due to the violence is estimated at 536,500 people, from whom 111,500 are living in 43 sites in Bangui.

The CAR situation Regional Response Plan of US$274 million is now 20 percent funded, with the latest contribution being $22 million from the United States.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Bangui, Akatrina Kitidi on mobile : +236 72 68 4828
  • In Yaoundé, Djerassem Mbaiorem on +237 70 40 18 41, ext 2600
  • In N'djamena, Massoumeh Farman-Farmaian on mobile +235 68 000 530
  • In Geneva, Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 557-9106
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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.

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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.

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Silent Success

Shared Experience Binds Hosts and Refugees Across the Oubangui River

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