Fighting in the Central African Republic (CAR) between the militaries of the CAR and Chad and rebels has caused thousands of people to flee the violence, which is making relief efforts difficult, aid agencies say.
Government forces from the CAR and Chad have been fighting Front Populaire pour le Redresement (FPR – Popular Front for Recovery) rebels in the north of the CAR since January.
The military operation, which was launched on January 23, is aimed at capturing FPR rebel leader “General” Abdel Kader, alias Baba Laddé, and is concentrated in north-central CAR.
After a January 24 joint attack on FPR positions, an estimated 16 000 people were displaced, according to a bulletin by CAR’s Humanitarian and Development Partnership Team (HDPT).
“This number is likely to change since some regions still remain inaccessible,” it added.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said that several villages in the north have been partially or completely destroyed since the end of January. “Thousands of people have had to flee,” said Katharina Ritz, the head of the ICRC delegation in Bangui. “They’ve lost everything: their houses, their crops, all their belongings.”
“Most of the displaced have found refuge with close relatives in neighbouring villages, but many are hiding in the bush. These people need water and food,” added Ritz. The ICRC is upgrading wells and boreholes in areas where displaced people are concentrated. It is also distributing food to those who have not been accommodated by host families. The Central African Red Cross Society has set up two emergency crews in Kaga Bandoro to direct displaced people to host families and to attend to people who sustained minor injuries.
Other areas within the country have also been the scene of sporadic violence. “The situation is further aggravated by crime and ethnic tension. In certain areas, the lack of security is significantly impeding the delivery of humanitarian aid, including that of the ICRC,” said Ritz.
Kaga-Bandoro’s bishop, Albert Vanbuel, was quoted in the media in early February as saying the counter-rebel operations had led to a generalized fear among the population as Chadian troops combed the area for FPR rebels, reports Integrated Regional Information Networks.
“They stop the so-called rebels, torture and kill them without knowing if they are rebels or not. Many innocent [people] have died this way.” Bishop Vanbuel added that FPR and civilian deaths had been recorded, with many corpses unburied.
The United Nations said that among the most pressing security threats in the Central African Republic is FPR activity in the north of the country
FPR rebels arrived in CAR from Chad in 2008 and have continued to carry out sporadic attacks in parts of northern CAR. They are also recruiting new members and acquiring weapons, despite having undertaken to return to Chad.