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Fears of violence before elections

Displaced people in Birao, a town in northeastern Central African Republic. The region has been hit by clashes between the Goula and Kara communities
Un groupe de personnes déplacées en RCA : après un an de répit, la LRA a repris les attaques avec encore plus d’intensité à la mi-2009, entraînant le déplacement de nombreux civils (photo d’archives) (Chris Simpson/IRIN)

Continuing violence in some regions of the Central African Republic (CAR), including the southeast where Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army rebels are active, could affect general elections due on 23 January, aid workers and observers warned.



"Residents of remote areas in the south live in fear of rebel attacks," an aid worker, who requested anonymity, told IRIN. "Is this also going to affect their participation in the polls? We don’t know.”



An estimated 1.8 million voters will go to the polls on 23 January to elect a new president and 105 legislators.



“We have reports of increased LRA activity in south-eastern CAR since late December, particularly around Rafai and Obo,” Ida Sawyer of Human Rights Watch (HRW) said. “Protection of civilians in the LRA-affected areas of CAR remains entirely inadequate – there are no international peacekeepers and, partly as a result, few humanitarian actors operating in the region.”



On 18 January, the Catholic-run Missionary Service News Agency reported attacks by the LRA in the south, 100km from Bangassou, highlighting a sense of insecurity that could depress voter turnout in the far north and the southeast.



“There are also serious gaps in reintegration programmes and psychosocial assistance for former combatants and children and adults who were abducted by the LRA and later managed to escape," Sawyer told IRIN.



In December 2010, the UN Security Council voiced serious concern over the security situation in CAR. Condemning “all attacks by local and foreign armed groups that threaten the population as well as peace and stability”, it called on the government to ensure free, fair, transparent and credible elections.



An international NGO source, who requested anonymity, said the areas of most concern were the northeast and southeast. Armed conflict aggravated by ethnic tensions between communities in the north-eastern prefectures of Vakaga and Bamingui-Bangoran had also severely disrupted civilian life.



In Birao, recent attacks displaced and killed civilians, the source added. The complex security situation had also hindered humanitarian response, leaving the local population extremely vulnerable.



But in the northwest, the security environment had improved because of the ongoing inclusive political dialogue, although tensions persist and the continuing presence of armed groups demands caution. CAR refugees who fled to Chad and Cameroon are slowly returning home to rebuild their lives.












Refugees in the Central African Republic town of Zinga, who fled clashes in Sud-Ubangi, a region in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Some 60 percent of the 17,000 DRC refugees in CAR are children, according to the UNHCR. Another 107,000 DRC

Chris Simpson/CAR
Refugees in the Central African Republic town of Zinga, who fled clashes in Sud-Ubangi, a region in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Some 60 percent of the 17,000 DRC refugees in CAR are children, according to the UNHCR. Another 107,000 DRC
http://www.irinnews.org/photo.aspx
Friday, January 15, 2010
Refugees not ready to return
Refugees in the Central African Republic town of Zinga, who fled clashes in Sud-Ubangi, a region in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Some 60 percent of the 17,000 DRC refugees in CAR are children, according to the UNHCR. Another 107,000 DRC


Photo: Chris Simpson/CAR
Refugees in the Central African Republic town of Zinga, who fled clashes in Sud-Ubangi, a region in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (file photo)

Nonetheless, some of those who fled their villages for the bush are still unwilling to return home, limiting their access to healthcare, clean water and education.



Positive spin



However, some international organizations hailed the election process. "The election process seems to be heading to an acceptable direction, despite all logistical challenges," Aminata Gueye, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) representative in CAR, told IRIN. "The campaign is going peacefully and our analysis is that the elections will take place, including in the Haut Mbomou [area], despite the LRA threat.



“One concern remains the area controlled by CPJP [Convention des Patriotes pour la justice et la paix], where volatile security impacts on humanitarian intervention," Gueye said. "For the time being, UNHCR continues to operate without problems. However, renewed violence means new displacement and will affect our work considerably, taking us back to previous years.



"Renewed violence may also affect our access to refugees who may follow the internal displacement of populations as [happened] in the Kabo-Sido axis [in the north-central region] where we lost track of refugees who returned spontaneously in 2009."



Observers note that south-western and eastern areas remain prone to persistent acts of banditry, attacks by foreign armed groups and other local politico-military factions not included in the peace process that began in December 2008 with an agreement between President Francois Bozize, opposition parties and rebel groups.



But violence in the north in 2010 between the CPJP, government forces and the presidential guard, displaced people into the forest and to Chad. It also limited humanitarian operations as did LRA attacks around Sam Ouandja near the Chad border, according to HRW.



“There [is a] need for the government to reform its security sector and address widespread impunity, [and] greater communication and coordination amongst actors across the region, including the establishment of an early warning mechanism,” Sawyer said.



Efforts should also be targeted at arresting LRA leaders. Since September 2008, the LRA has killed 2,385 civilians and abducted 3,054 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, CAR and Southern Sudan, according to reports by HRW and the UN.



cp/eo/mw

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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