The protection of 200,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) is an integral element of the peace-building process in the Central African Republic (CAR), a United Nations human rights expert said today following a week-long visit to the country.
“Efforts to build sustainable peace will be weakened as long as entire communities remain displaced and in despair,” said Walter Kaelin, the Secretary-General’s Representative on the human rights of IDPs, calling for the return and reintegration of the uprooted.
Also required in finding durable solutions for IDPs is the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, he stressed.
During his visit, Mr. Kaelin visited northern CAR, which has been heavily affected by displacement.
Since his first visit to the country in 2007, he said, the humanitarian situation has stabilized. “However, those who remain displaced still face a humanitarian crisis, and their children have now remained without any access to education for years,” he noted.
The expert voiced particular concern over the situation around Ndélé, the scene of clashes between Government security forces and a politico-military movement known as the Convention des patriots pour la justice et la paix (CPJP).
The violence has forced many to flee into the bush, where they are suffering from a shortage of food, water and health services.
“I have also received reliable reports about acts of grave violence committed against civilian populations,” he said, calling on the sides to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law.
Mr. Kaelin also expressed alarm over the situation in the CAR’s southeast, where several thousand people have been newly uprooted by “ruthless and atrocious” attacks carried out by the notorious northern Ugandan rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
The lack of humanitarian access to several parts of the country due to insecurity is also a matter of concern, he said, noting that there have been encouraging talks lately on the lifting of military restriction on aid to areas around Ndélé.
Yesterday and today, the Representative took part in a workshop with the Government and others on preliminary steps on possible legislation on internal displacement.
If such a law were to be enacted, he said, the CAR “would set an example for the Great Lakes region and create the legal and institutional framework necessary to address the serious challenges on the ground and take on its responsibilities to protect and assist internally displaced persons.”
In May, the Security Council voted to end the UN Mission in the CAR and Chad (MINURCAT) by the end of this year after the Chadian Government requested the move and said it would assume full responsibility for protecting civilians on its territory.
The mission was set up in September 2007 to help protect civilians and facilitate humanitarian aid to thousands of people uprooted due to insecurity in the two countries and the neighbouring Darfur region of Sudan.
The 15-member body ordered that MINURCAT’s military component be reduced from its current 3,300 troops to 2,200 military personnel – 1,900 in Chad and 300 in the CAR – by 15 July. Withdrawal of the remaining troops will begin on 15 October, and all military and civilian personnel are to be withdrawn by 31 December.