UNHCR - Worries deepen as CAR violence escalates
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is extremely worried over the resurgence of violence being seen in parts of the Central African Republic. Renewed violence has erupted in the towns of Zemio, Bria and Kaga Bandaro in southern and northern CAR as clashes are reported between self-defence groups and other armed groups. Civilians and humanitarian workers are also being targeted.
In Zemio, close to the border with Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), UNHCR staff are reporting intense heavy weapons fire since Tuesday. Some houses close to UNHCR’s office were burnt down. Over 1,000 people have fled their homes. Many are seeking refuge in a Catholic church in the town, while some 66 people have sought safety in the UNHCR compound – among them terrified women and children in fear of their lives.
Violence has also seriously impacted Congolese refugees living in a camp in Zemio, which was invaded by armed men in recent days. Since the incident, many refugees including men, women and children have returned to the DRC, in fear for their lives. The camp was hosting around 3,000 Congolese refugees.
In the town of Bria, several hundred kilometres northeast of the capital, Bangui, clashes were reported on June 20 that continued for three consecutive days. Many people are reported to have fled to the bush. Reports suggest a camp for internally displaced, hosting some 2,400 in the Ndourou IV district is now completely empty with its whole population having fled the recent attacks.
Indiscriminate attacks in Bria have left some 136 people dead and 36 wounded, with 600 houses burned and an additional 180 looted. These are conservative estimates. People fleeing the violence speak of having witnessed brutal attacks, killings, robberies, lootings and kidnappings.
In a separate incident, unidentified armed men tried to break in to UNHCR accommodation in Kaga Bandaro in the north of the country on Wednesday night with the intention of attacking staff and looting belongings. The attack was thwarted by MINUSCA Forces.
Insecurity is preventing UNHCR staff and other humanitarians to assess the full extent of damages or displacement from the recent violence. However, our teams were able to distribute relief items including plastic sheets, blankets, mats, mosquito nets, kitchen sets, buckets and soap to more than 5000 households in accessible parts of Bria in the south over the past three weeks - despite the fragile security situation.
UNHCR renews its call on all parties to the conflict in the area to immediately end attacks against civilians and aid workers. UNHCR is also seeking immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to assist those affected by the recent wave of violence.
Violence in CAR has uprooted some 503,600 people inside the country including more than 100,000 in 2017, and more than 484,000 have been registered as refugees in neighbouring countries (Cameroon, DRC, Chad and Republic of Congo). Some 21,500 have fled across the border into the DRC over the last several weeks
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In Geneva, Babar Baloch, [email protected], +41 079 513 95 49
- In Bangui, Djerassem MBAIOREM, [email protected], +236 72 30 12 88