Briefing Notes, 25 February 2014
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 25 February 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
In Central African Republic, and based on monitoring by the UNHCR-led Protection Cluster, more than 15,000 people in 18 locations in the northwest and southwest of the country are at present surrounded and being threatened by armed groups. These populations are at very high risk of attack and urgently need better security. Although violence has hit all communities in CAR, most of the people who are trapped are Muslims under threat from anti-Balaka militiamen. Areas we are particularly worried about include the PK12 neighbourhood in Bangui and the towns of Boda, Bouar and Bossangoa.
Targeting of populations based on their religions has been happening since September last year, and affecting both Christian and Muslim communities. In places such as Paoua and some areas of Bangui, communities continue to live and work together. However, atrocities have become frequent.
On Saturday, three Muslim men were reported killed in a neighbouhood of Bangui close to the airport. Last week, a convoy carrying people escaping from a besieged site at PK12 was attacked by anti-Balaka militiamen. All 21 men in the convoy were killed, leaving 119 frightened children and 19 women who fled to a nearby village. Recently in Boali, north of the capital Bangui, an attack by anti-Balaka militias left 11 people dead. The 800 traumatized survivors sought refuge at a church where they have since been hosted by the priest and protected by international forces.
UNHCR and our partners are responding to these situations through protection-by-presence, humanitarian assistance, advocacy for protection measures and in exceptional cases, through facilitating the movement of these communities to safe sites. But humanitarian efforts alone cannot be sufficient solution to the crisis. We are appealing again to all armed elements to stop indiscriminate attacks against civilians. We are also calling for the deployment of more international troops as their numbers are far too low considering the size of the country and the scope of the crisis.
CAR's new Government needs urgent support to undertake effective law enforcement in particular through deployment of police forces and reestablishm7ent of a judicial system to end impunity. Armed militias need to be disarmed, de-mobilized and when possible, reintegrated into society. Quick development action is also needed to allow displaced persons to recover a more stable environment and for economic and social life to return to normal.
Since December 2012, violence and instability have forced close to a million people to flee within CAR and to neighboring Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. More than 700,000 are internally displaced (with 273,500 IDPs in Bangui spread over 66 sites), while more than 288,000 refugees fled to neighbouring countries.
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