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: