In 2012, conflict between Christian militia members and a mostly Muslim rebel coalition in the Central African Republic (CAR) descended into what the UN defines as a civil war. In January of 2013, a peace agreement was reached, but the agreement collapsed just two months later as rebels seized the capital city of Bangui and forced the president, Francois Bozize, to flee.
Since that time, violent conflict has mired the CAR in a humanitarian and political crisis that has left the most vulnerable citizens—including children, the ill, and the poor—in need of security, nutrition and healthcare. As of May 2018, one in four people in the country have been internally displaced, and the boundaries of this displacement now include central and northern areas that were formerly peaceful.
Severe malnutrition and high infant mortality are serious concerns, but beyond these issues lie longer term problems; an entire generation of displaced children are not currently enrolled in school, which can have an impact that lasts far beyond the resolution of the conflict.
In 2014, the United Nations Security Council authorized a stabilization mission with the
protection of vulnerable citizens as its first priority. In addition to nutritional support, water access, and other humanitarian aid, when a burst of violence erupted in the capital earlier this year, UN troops were forced to intervene to prevent Muslim citizens from being denied healthcare access.
Najat Rochdi, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for CAR, spoke at a recent press conference in Geneva, emphasizing the depth and urgency of the crisis. She described a 70% percent increase in displacement in one year’s time, which runs at odds with 2017 funding levels that reached only 40 percent of what had been requested. Even so, the UN has managed to provide water access to one million people and educational support to 60,000 children. 70,000 farm families have received a seed allocation, and 17,000 small children suffering from acute malnutrition have been provided with intervention.
Also during her conference, Ms. Rochdi described the efforts of militia members to pressure the government to grant them amnesty. The UN has established a Special Criminal Court to deal with individual cases and, starting in early June, this court will work to prevent impunity for humanitarian crimes. The court will begin by addressing the cases of high profile militia group leaders, who are often responsible for attacks on aid workers in what is now considered one of the world’s most dangerous places for humanitarians.
What lies at the heart of the conflict and fuels the ongoing violence? The country’s natural wealth—gold, diamonds, and uranium-- mark the locations that experience the highest levels of strife. According to Ms. Rochdi, no problems exist in areas where there is “nothing to steal”.
Join us as we follow the early actions of the Special Criminal Court and the evolution of this ongoing crisis.