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: