UNICEF raises alarm about conditions in northern Central African Republic

28 November 2008

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is voicing concern that security in the strife-torn north of the Central African Republic (CAR) has started to worsen, with fresh fighting between Government forces and rebels uprooting thousands more civilians in the deeply impoverished country.

Two separate attacks took place last week between the military and rebels, and one of the clashes led to half of a town’s population escaping into the nearby bush, UNICEF reported in a press release on Wednesday.

The agency warned that the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) – already estimated to be more than 200,000 – could swell even higher because of the recent security incidents.

This will further strain the capacity of aid agencies in the CAR, one of the poorest countries in the world, to reach and support IDPs and other conflict-affected civilians.

The Government and rebels are slated to hold two weeks of peace talks in the capital, Bangui, starting next Friday, and UNICEF said it is concerned that the latest insecurity could jeopardize those talks as well as the release and reintegration of child soldiers serving with rebels.

“UNICEF hopes the CAR’s ongoing political dialogue will pave the way for peace and recovery, but right now the country is on the edge,” said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF’s representative in the CAR.

“Since the beginning of the peace dialogue, many positive developments for women and children have flourished. More fighting can only undermine this progress. It is time for the international community to pressure all the parties to show restraint.”

Last year the Security Council authorized the establishment of a multi-dimensional UN presence (known as MINURCAT) in the CAR’s north and in eastern Chad, where related fighting and instability has uprooted hundreds of thousands of civilians.


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