The Socio-political Situation
After being elected for the first time in 2005, President Bozizé encountered strong insurgency in the northern areas due to rebel activity. This was partly a reaction to violence and human rights violations perpetrated by the new national forces. The country has vast lawless areas due to the State’s weakness, including the military, combined with local conflict over scarce resources, such as diamonds, and the proliferation of light weapons.
The UN-facilitated Libreville Peace Process achieved temporary stability within the country. It led to a Global Peace Agreement signed in June 2008 between the Government and five rebels groups, including the Armée pour la restauration de la Démocratie (APRD), the Front Démocratique du Peuple Centrafricain and the Union des Forces pour le Dévelopement et le Redressement (UFDR).
After the signing of the accords, the subsequent Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process stalled. By November it was only being applied in the north-west province of Ouham Pende. A new rebel group, the Convention des Patriotes pour la Justice et la Paix (CPJP), signed a ceasefire agreement with the Government in June 2011. Other criminal groups, such as the coupeurs de route, poachers and dissident rebels, have been able to proliferate due to the State’s absence in most of the northern part of the country. This has enabled armed foreign groups to use CAR as a base, such as the Chadian rebel group Front Patriotique pour le Redressement (FPR) and the LRA, that has been violently attacking civilians in the south-east of the country since February 2008.
In January 2010, the UN Integrated Peace Consolidation Office in CAR (BINUCA) took over the former UN Office in CAR (BONUCA) to support peace consolidation through three priorities, as set out in the ISF. They are Security Sector Reform and DDR; Rule of Law, Good Governance and Human Rights; and Community Socio-Economic Recovery. BINUCA is a political mission with no peacekeeping component.
The Humanitarian Situation
CAR faces recurrent localized crises triggered by shocks, such as conflict, natural disaster or economic downturns. However, the political conflict has had the biggest impact on the humanitarian situation. An estimated 1,5 million people have been directly affected by the conflict since 2005. Approximately 42 per cent of the population of 4 million is considered to be food insecure, including in non-conflict-affected areas (south-west). Access to primary and secondary health care is low throughout the country, as is access to drinkable water (32 per cent). In the north and south-east, 103,000 people remain internally displaced compared with 295,000 in 2007. More than 70,000 people have recently returned in unstable conditions, and another 20,000 fled their homes due to the September 2010 conflict between two rebel groups. Violent unrest from 2003 to 2007 forced 170,000 Central Africans to flee their homes in the north-west. They remain refugees in Chad and Cameroon. Another 17,000 people from both DRC and South Sudan are refugees in Southern CAR.
The situation is slowly stabilizing in the north-west where returns are taking place, but steadily deteriorating in the east due to continuous insecurity. HIV/AIDS prevalence is the highest in Central Africa, with 4.7 per cent of the population infected. The under-five mortality rate soars at 173 per 1,000, and maternal mortality is at 980 per 100,000 live births. Gender-based violence is widespread in CAR, and the exploitation of children, including enrolment in armed groups, is an issue of major concern.
The Humanitarian Strategy and Response
In 2011, eight UN agencies and 25 international NGOs were engaged in the humanitarian response in CAR. There was an extended presence throughout the country, except in the south-west. The CAP 2011 for CAR focused on three strategic objectives: saving lives through timely response to emerging crises throughout the country; improving protection for those most exposed to denial of their basic rights; and supporting community capacities to improve their livelihoods through an early recovery approach. The humanitarian response is shaped not only to avoid undermining longer-term development-oriented opportunities, but also to contribute to building a more stable environment conducive to development.
The Humanitarian Appeal for CAR rose from $50 million in 2006 to $140 million in 2011. Clusters have been functional since August 2008 and the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) was established in January 2010. OCHA organizes a weekly contact group meeting, pooling all members of the Humanitarian and Development Partnerships Team (HDPT) and military bodies, such as the multinational regional peacekeeping force MICOPAX. OCHA is a member of the Peacebuilding Fund Steering Committee, the Policy Coordination Group (UNCT + BINUCA) and the country LRA Working Group.
The political setting in CAR in the next two years will remain stable, but fragile. In Bangui, the macro-economic struggle and rear payment of salaries could lead to violent strikes and civil unrest. National rebel groups are expected to gradually adhere to peace accords and implement the DDR process in a bid to gain profit. With no sign of a durable reintegration strategy, many of the former combatants will join new rebel movements or fall into criminal activities, including banditry. Foreign armed groups, such as the FPR or the LRA, will continue to threaten the protection of civilians. The chaotic election process in neighbouring DRC could lead to a massive influx of refugees in the south of Bangui. The DRC region bordering CAR is the stronghold of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo party, the main opposition group to President Kabila.
In the north and north-west, relief organizations will continue to fill the gaps in the absence of basic public services. This early recovery assistance will support the return of up to 80,000 IDPs and 150,000 refugees from Chad and Cameroon. Programmes will focus on building communities’ capacity through agricultural projects, income-generating activities and rehabilitating small infrastructure such as water facilities, schools, roads and bridges.
Emergency response will continue to address the needs of IDPs, refugees and burdened host communities in the south-east to counter the effects of the LRA attacks. Programmes will focus on protection and food security. Hampered by access constraints and insecurity in the north-east, humanitarian organizations will adopt a remote approach and run some operations out of humanitarian hubs in safer areas of the country. Activities in the north-east will focus on health, protection, and water and sanitation.