CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: RENEWED VIOLENCE IN BANGUI
6th October 2015 | News
Population cornered, aid workers targeted – On the morning of the 26th of September, violence flared in the PK5 neighbourhood following the murder of a young Muslim motorcycle taxi driver. Despite regular tensions in this neighbourhood of Bangui, the forces of the MINUSCA peacekeeping mission were very slow to act, allowing existing resentment among the population to take an extremely violent turn. This lack of responsiveness and anticipation in the action plan of the peacekeeping forces contributed significantly to letting the security situation degenerate, giving way to scenes of punitive and opportunistic violence. Since then, there has been fighting on a daily basis and the resentment of the community has given way to political demands, with speeches blaming the entire international community.
- Deliberate attacks against humanitarian organisations and State structures, resulting in inability to access basic services, in particular healthcare.
As Bangui becomes caught up in recurrent violence, around ten national and international humanitarian organisations have been victims of looting, in their offices and residences, sometimes with violent attacks on employees present.
– Beyond opportunistic “economic” looting, genuine episodes of destruction have been observed, with a desire to destroy intervention resources and response capacity.
– Lack of access to ambulances prevented the retrieval of bodies and the transfer of casualties, who have had to try to get to medical centres on their own, confronting danger and the barricades.
– Those already in hospital sometimes preferred to leave medical centres because of the instability, in spite of the risks. This was the case for ¾ of the patients in the Bangui Paediatric Centre.
– When it was time to go back to school, schools were unable to open. Some have become sites for displaced persons like the Benzvi school, and are likely to not be in a position to allow students back for several months.
- Worsening humanitarian situation, while NGOs are left without access.
The humanitarian consequences, particularly with regard to the new dynamics of displacement, are tragic. Meanwhile, the majority of organisations have been forced to suspend their activities or to keep them to a minimum and evacuate part of their staff.
– In Bangui, the number of displaced persons has almost tripled in just four days of violence. According to current estimates, they number more than 69,890; 61% of these are newly displaced. This figure is even higher than that of last January (50,398), when more than 23,000 were able to travel home accompanied by humanitarian actors.
– They have settled at known sites like MPoko, which is once again filled to capacity with more than 19,000 newly displaced persons, but also at 7 new sites created on an ad hoc basis where water, sanitation and hygiene facilities are inadequate or non-existent.
– To date, it has been impossible to travel to better evaluate the needs of all the sites in order to prepare aid, as routes are not always secured. In this situation the population is effectively held hostage, without protection or humanitarian aid.
- A deterioration in the situation which also affects the provinces.
Although Bangui is the first place affected by the violence, this state of paralysis very quickly has consequences for the provinces, which depend heavily on the capital.
– In the provinces, outbreaks of violence and growing tensions have been noted in Kaga Bandoro, Bambari and Bouar, causing displacement and forcing people to flee to the jungle.
– Activities are for the most part suspended due to the level of instability.
– To date, the bases of humanitarian organisations situated in the provinces have been in a worrying state with regard to available reserves of cash and fuel. They are suffocated by the impossibility of getting supplies from Bangui because key routes have not been secured by MINUSCA and all internal flights are suspended.
The effect of the resurgence of violence is a step backwards by several months, in terms of humanitarian needs, social cohesion, the return home of displaced persons, but also the response capacity of humanitarian actors. Humanitarian organisations are once again raising the alarm: the neglect of the crisis in the Central African Republic at an international level coupled with the serious mismanagement of these new outbreaks of violence augurs a very bleak future for a population that has already suffered mistreatment and is extremely vulnerable.
We are calling for:
- the entire international community to strongly and publicly condemn the attacks on and violence against humanitarian organisations.
- all parties in the conflict to respect the neutrality and impartiality of humanitarian workers, and to allow them to carry out their mission at all times. Healthcare facilities, as well as all other services necessary for the survival of the population (water supply etc.) must be preserved and respected by all, in accordance with international humanitarian law.
- MINUSCA to fulfil its safeguarding and protective role by demonstrating responsiveness and anticipation.
- the international community – which has just met at the United Nations in New York – to take action on this ongoing crisis and to immediately increase aid to the Central African Republic in order that the stocks and intervention resources which make up response capacity can be restored as quickly as possible, emergency aid can be provided to displaced persons, and a genuine contingency plan with long-term financial commitment can be defined.
- all stakeholders to support, promote and respect a reinforced distinction between political action and humanitarian response. This is to stop the harmful confusion between NGOs and the international community, which attracts feelings of strong resentment.