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‘Egregious violations’ of rights in Central African Republic force thousands to flee: UN

‘Egregious violations’ of rights in Central African Republic force thousands to flee: UN

Around 40,000 people in the impoverished Central African Republic (CAR) have been forced to flee their homes because of summary executions and ethnic violence, a joint United Nations mission reported today, as the world body’s top aid official warned of the appalling suffering from these “egregious violations of human rights.”

For fear of reprisals linked to the ongoing conflict between Government Security Forces and the armed opposition, the entire populations of some centres in the north and northeast of the strife-torn country have left their homes, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

“The human suffering resulting from these egregious violations of human rights is appalling. Despite an absolute right of protection in times of conflict under international law, civilians are being targeted and persecuted,” said Acting Emergency Relief Coordinator Margareta Wahlström.

“All parties to this conflict must take measures to ensure the safety of civilians, and they should remember that they will be held accountable for their actions, as we have seen elsewhere.”

A UN Inter-Agency mission recently returned from the north and northeast of CAR, which is home to over 200,000 people. In the most affected areas, including some which the mission visited, a lack of development and widespread insecurity have plunged vulnerable populations into a situation of “acute emergency,” OCHA said.

In several areas of the CAR the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) tripled during 2006 and the Humanitarian Community Partnership Team estimates that one million people, amounting to a quarter of the country’s population, are affected.

As many as 220,000 Central Africans are displaced, including 20,000 refugees in Cameroon, 50,000 refugees in Chad and an estimated 150,000 IDPs. Insecurity remains the prime cause of displacement, as interviews with refugees and IDPs have shown.

Decades of armed conflict, political instability and poor governance have resulted in a near total absence of development and the CAR is the seventh least developed country on earth. UN officials have also been expressing increasing concern over the possible spill over of violence from the neighbouring Sudanese region of Darfur.

The CAR’s population is one of the poorest in the world with social indicators worsening steadily for 20 years. This year the UN is appealing for over $49 million for the CAR, although so far less than 0.4 per cent or $184,330 has been funded. In addition, Sweden and Ireland recently pledged $2.8 million and $2 million respectively. In 2006, 60 per cent of the total appeal for $38 million was covered.