31 December 2013 |

Central African Republic: Internal displacement in brief

As of December 2013

 

At the end of 2012, there were around 132,000 IDPs in the Central African Republic (CAR). They were displaced variously by the internal armed conflict between 2005 and 2008, subsequent fighting between armed opposition groups and government forces, clashes between cattle herders and farmers, and attacks by Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and criminal groups known as coupeurs de route.

An estimated 106,000 people were newly displaced during 2012. As of September, 21,000 remained in displacement having been forced to flee their homes by LRA since 2008.

The security context in CAR evolved very differently from region to region over the course of the year. The situation in
the north-west and north-east of the country was reported to have improved, while north-central and south-eastern regions remained unstable as a result of tensions between local and nomadic communities and the presence of foreign armed groups, including LRA and Chad’s Popular Front for Recovery (Front Populaire pour le Redressement or FPR).

At the end of the year, Séléka, a new coalition of armed group factions, marched from the north towards the capital Bangui, taking control of broad swaths of the country by the end of December. Troops from Chad, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville and Cameroon supported CAR’s armed forces to halt the rebels’ advance, and tens of thousands were displaced by the fighting.

IDPs in CAR live in camps, with host families or in some cases in the bush. Their needs and vulnerabilities vary signiantly depending on the length of their displacement - from a few days up to several years - and the distance from their habitual place of residence, which can be anything from one to hundreds of kilometres. Protection needs include food, health care, water and sanitation, education and adequate housing. Many IDPs do not hold identity documents, which puts them at risk of statelessness.

Women and girls continue to experience sexual and ger-based violence, especially domestic violence and rape. Those who have to travel long distances to water points or farmland are particularly at risk. A late-2011 survey undertaken by UNHCR and the Danish Refugee Council in northern camps revealed that many displaced children, both girls and boys, were used as labour by host communities in exchange for housing, food or money. Early and forced marriages often yield the same incentives, and 30 per cent of displaced girls aged between 12 and 17 have been sold as brides to members of host communities.

Around 35,000 IDPs returned to their places of origin in 2012. Most returns were spontaneous and took place in the north-west and north-east of the country, as a result of improved security and the ongoing disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of members of armed groups. IDPs going back to their home areas face obstacles, however, in making return a durable solution, and this is particularly the case for those who have suffered protracted displacement. Challenges include livelihood changes, poor or non-existent basic services and in some areas ongoing insecurity.

Profiling exercises carried out in the areas of Kabo and Bamingui-Bangoran in 2011 and 2012 revealed that the majority of IDPs surveyed would prefer not to return to their places of origin. That said, tensions with host communities have pushed some to return despite the challenges they are likely to face there.

Progress towards national legislation on displacement was made in 2012. A stakeholders’ workshop held in August reviewed a draft law and passed it to parliament for adoption. Until the proposals are enshrined in law, however, there is no framework for assisting IDPs despite CAR being a party to both the Kala Convention and the Great Lakes Pact. There is only limited leadership in responding to displacement issues on the ground despite policy initiatives.

The international humanitarian response continued to face challenges. Access restrictions in particular hampered efforts to reach those in need in several conflict-affected areas, especially in the south-east where LRA was present. Assistance continued to be coordinated via the cluster approach, which has been in place in CAR since 2007.

Despite renewed conflict at the end of the year, CAR risks becoming a forgotten crisis, as evidenced by the rapid turnover of staff on the ground and the continued lack of funding for both humanitarian and development programmes. By the end of 2012, only 64.8 per cent of the $124 million requested in the 2012 CAP humanitarian appeal had been donated.