Central African Republic
Humanitarian and political background
While the latest elections were peaceful, the government of the Central African Republic (CAR) is struggling to achieve lasting peace. The Seleka, an armed group, refuses to give up its weapons.
After a ceasefire ended months of bloodshed, French troops and a multinational UN Stabilisation Mission (MINUSCA) were deployed to protect civilians and provide stability. Nonetheless, violence and human rights violations continue to be committed by all parties in the conflict, including by the international forces sent to protect.
The situation today in CAR is complex. On the one hand, outbreaks of violence and criminality continue. Armed groups, militias, and individuals clash in economically motivated attacks. Much of the violence is driven by a desire to control resources. Skirmishes between local groups and international forces, as well as shifting battle lines, make it difficult for humanitarian actors to reach people in need.
On the other hand, more people are returning to their homes owing to the improvement of security in CAR, thanks to MINUSCA. The latest elections were regarded as a great success, owing to the peaceful transition of power. The situation has since been downgraded from a crisis by the international community, though the situation still remains fragile.
The focus now is on helping CAR achieve lasting peace in a fragile situation.
Ten months of terror
After decades of slow development, instability, and violence, CAR plunged into a political, security and humanitarian crisis in early 2013 after a violent overthrow of then-President Bozizé. Though a ceasefire was arranged in 2014, the wounds of the conflict are still fresh. An estimated 888,000 people remain displaced.
In 2013, an alliance of armed Muslim groups, known as the Seleka, installed their own leader. During their ten months in power, the Seleka were responsible for massacres, executions, sexual violence, torture, and widespread looting and destruction of property.
In response, village militias and self-defence groups made up of mostly Christians and animists reassembled, known as the Anti-Balaka. The Anti-Balaka carried out attacks against Muslim civilians and Seleka members alike, and were responsible for a list of equally violent crimes.
In December 2013, CAR was declared a level 3 emergency – the UN classification for the most severe, large-scale humanitarian emergency. Violent confrontations have since continued regularly.
A national reconciliation forum was finally held in July 2015, with agreements to end the Seleka government and hold national elections.
Needs outweigh resources
Despite the ceasefire, the majority of people displaced by violence have still not returned to their homes. The conflict caused almost one quarter of the population—more than one million people out of 4.6 million—to flee.
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of April 2016, 420,000 people are displaced inside CAR. Displaced people are living in the bush, in caves, with host families, or on the streets of the capital Bangui. A further 460,000 continue living as refugees in Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
People living in informal shelters often experience poor hygiene, inadequate shelter, and the threat of eviction. Those living in the bush undergo appalling living conditions, while people who moved into abandoned housing experience looting, burning, and other threats to property. More than 2.7 million people depend on aid to survive, including 1.2 million who do not have stable food supplies.
People we helped in the Central African Republic in 2015
NRC in the Central African Republic
There are some glimmers of hope in the Central African Republic, but the fundamental problems remain. We cannot repeat the mistake of pulling out too soon.
Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the NRC
Our country programme in CAR was re-established in 2014. We do work in advocacy, education, food security, shelter, information and legal counselling, and water and sanitation activities. We are also standing by with a rapid, integrated emergency response that gives life-saving and life-sustaining help in case more people are displaced.
In 2015, we assisted 53,000 people.
We seek to influence the international community, advocating for:
- Protecting the most vulnerable people.
- 'Do no harm' humanitarian activities to avoid making the situation worse.
- Increased donor funding.
- Improving the environment so we can reach those who need help.
Even in a crisis, education is one of our top priorities, to protect children and youth and give communities hope.
Our activities in education include:
- Reopening and rebuilding.
- Re-enrolling children in courses.
- Enlisting and training teachers.
- Providing vocational training and life skills to youth.
- Distributing learning materials, classroom furnishings and supplies.
To enhance the stability of food sources for people, we distribute agricultural tools and seeds to those who need them.
Shelter and ICLA
Toimprove the living accommodations for people in CAR, our shelter and information, counselling and legal assistance (ICLA) programme includes the following:
- Repairing houses damaged during the crisis.
- Ensuring tenants are the rightful, legal owners.
- Preventing further conflict over housing, land and property.
- Providing accommodation to people in displacement camps.
To restore the basic human rights and dignity of displaced people, we run water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) activities:
- Reopening and treating water sources (such as wells and pumps).
- Constructing and repairing latrines.
- Providing clean drinking water to people in displacement camps.
The battle for survival in a forgotten crisis
Lack of funding and stable food supplies are imminent threats to the people of Central African Republic.
Engage to Stay and Deliver
Humanitarian actors have to do more to increase access to people in need, shows a new NRC report on humanitarian aid in the Central African Republic.