UNHCR seeking urgent relocation of besieged Peuhl minority in Yaloke, Central African Republic
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
In Central African Republic, UNHCR is concerned by the deteriorating situation for 474 Muslims from the Peuhl ethnic minority, trapped for several months in the town of Yaloke, around 200 kilometres northwest of the capital Bangui. Adults and children have become severely malnourished. More than 30 per cent are suffering from malaria. And there are six known cases of tuberculosis. Since their arrival in Yaloke last April, 42 people among the group have died, while others are becoming weaker by the day.
Despite the presence of international forces, the group at Yaloke is still subject to recurrent threats, verbal and physical aggression, and looting by anti-balaka militias. Urgent humanitarian assistance is needed along with help in relocating them to safer places, either inside the Central African Republic or to neighbouring countries.
In early February this year, Peuhl minorities were attacked in several towns (Bouaca, Boboua, Bolemba, Boda) in Lobaye prefecture to the west of Bangui. About 700 people sought to reach the main road running through the prefecture to take trucks to Cameroon or Chad. They spent two months on the run, hiding in the bushes at night. Many lost family members and friends after being caught or shot at by anti-balaka groups. April saw more than 50 men killed in attacks by anti-balakas, who also took 7,000 head of cattle - an important source of livelihoods and nutrition. Many people found sanctuary further north in Yaloke, and were hoping to leave the country. Yaloke was once a thriving town, home to some 10,000 Muslims.
Today, the displaced Peuhl are the only Muslims still in Yaloke, and they are confined to an overcrowded site for the internally displaced. They cannot go beyond a 500 metre perimeter because of the dangers. This means that they cannot seek safety elsewhere but it also impedes them from securing a livelihood or seeking other help.
A UNHCR team visited the group on 18 December to assess their situation. It found that more than 90 percent want to leave to seek refuge in Cameroon or Chad. People pleaded for assistance with vehicles and security to help them leave the country. Others wanted to be relocated away from Yaloke which is no longer considered viable.
More than two years of civil war and inter-religious violence have displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Central African Republic. Nearly 440,000 people remain displaced inside CAR and some 190,000 have sought asylum in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo.
Today, more than 36,000 people remain trapped in 7 enclaves across the Central African Republic (PK5 in Bangui, Boda, Yaloke, Carnot, Berberati, Bouar and Dekoa). UNHCR has access to these populations and has conducted several missions to register their intentions. We have coordinated and facilitated the evacuation of several communities in the past including from Bossembele in January, and Bossangoa and PK12 in Bangui in April. We have also been working on promoting social cohesion among communities wishing to stay.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In Bangui, Dalia Al Achi on mobile +236 72675186
- In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
- In Geneva, Karin de Gruijl on mobile +41 79 255 9213