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Amnesty International Report 2008 - Central African Republic

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 28 May 2008
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2008 - Central African Republic, 28 May 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/483e278050.html [accessed 12 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Head of State: François Bozizé
Head of government: Elie Doté
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
Population: 4.2 million
Life expectancy: 43.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 183/151 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 48.6 per cent


Armed groups, government soldiers and criminal gangs killed civilians, destroyed and burned property and houses, pillaged, abducted and raped with impunity. Tens of thousands of civilians from northern Central African Republic (CAR) continued to flee from violence and human rights abuses into southern Chad, Cameroon and other neighbouring countries.

Background

Throughout the year, the CAR government was under pressure to seek a peaceful settlement to the armed conflict between government forces and armed groups that started in mid-2005. In February, with the mediation of Libya, the government signed a peace agreement with the Central African People's Democratic front (Front démocratique pour le peuple centrafricain, FDPC), and on 1 April the government signed an agreement with the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement, UFDR). Both agreements had not been fully implemented by the end of 2007, although in June the government released 18 alleged members of the UFDR. In December, President Bozizé appointed a National Dialogue consultative body.

Government forces, particularly the Presidential Guard, were accused of killing scores of civilians, while armed groups abducted and killed those who refused to support them.

Armed bandits, known as Zaraguinas, some of whom were demobilized soldiers from CAR and neighbouring countries, robbed travellers – killing and wounding some – and abducted adults and children for ransom.

The widespread insecurity in the north caused mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of people who had little or no access to humanitarian assistance.

Unlawful killings by government forces

Following attacks by armed groups against government forces and state installations in northern CAR, the Presidential Guard and other security forces carried out punitive attacks against the local population, killing and wounding inhabitants and burning down houses. Suspected members of armed groups were arrested and often summarily executed. Many residents fled into the bush and hid for weeks or months.

  • Yacoub Ahmat Mahmat fled Paoua after government soldiers had destroyed houses, stolen money, beaten residents and abducted three people and killed one in reprisal for an attack by an armed group on 6 January. On 12 February, in the aftermath of the attacks, 15 Zaraguinas stole 15 of Yacoub Ahmat Mahmat's cattle.
  • In March, Raymond Djasrabaye was one of many villagers in Beboura, Paoua, who were wounded or killed by government forces. His father and mother were killed. Raymond Djasrabaye was shot in the arm, developed gangrene and fled to Chad, where his arm was amputated.
  • Soldiers of the government's Central African Armed Forces (Forces armées centrafricaines, FACA), particularly members of the Presidential Guard, extrajudicially executed people they suspected of belonging to armed opposition groups.
  • On 5 January, FACA soldiers in Kaga Bandoro market publicly executed two men aged 22 and 27. They reportedly paraded the victims' bodies through the streets and took photographs with them. The government is not known to have taken any action against the soldiers or their commander.
  • Across northern CAR, FACA responded to attacks on government forces by burning houses. At the start of 2007, more than 2,000 homes were reported to have been burned between Kaga Bandoro and Ouandago, displacing more than 10,000 people. Government soldiers looted the inhabitants' property and burned what they could not carry away.
  • On 27 and 28 January, members of the Presidential Guard based in Bossangoa were reported to have burned down nine villages along the Bozoum – Paoua – Pende axis, to have summarily executed at least seven unarmed civilians, and to have tied a man to a granary and burned him alive. Members of the Presidential Guard under the same commander were reported to have shot dead two Roman Catholic Church catechists in Bozoy III village. At least another 10 people were reportedly killed by members of the Presidential Guard along the Paoua – Bozoum axis.

Unlawful killings by armed groups

Human rights and humanitarian organizations, as well as refugees in southern Chad, reported that in northern CAR armed groups attacked unarmed civilians. The victims were accused of collaborating with or supporting the government.

  • Members of an armed group beat Djibrilla Adamou as he was walking home from Letele in Bocaranga on 19 March, because he failed to give them money. He was so severely injured that the armed group reportedly left him for dead.
  • On 11 June a female French volunteer working with Médecins sans frontières (MSF) was shot dead by a member of an armed group, the Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy (Armée populaire pour la restauration de la démocratie, APRD). The APRD was subsequently reported to have declared that the killing was a mistake, carried out by one of its combatants, who was said to have been executed by the APRD without a fair trial.
  • In January more than 50 alleged Zaraguinas in military camouflage, their faces covered in turbans, were reported to have attacked the residents of Voudou village along the Bozoum-Bossangoa axis, killing four civilians.

Abductions of children and adults

Scores of children and adults were abducted by armed bandits, especially in north-western CAR. Virtually no action was taken by the government to prevent the abductions or arrest the perpetrators.

Most of the victims appeared to be members of the Mbororo ethnic group, targeted because they are pastoralists who can sell their cattle to pay ransoms that peasant farmers could not afford.

Some victims were abducted in revenge for anti-Zaraguina activities by members of their families. The wife of a Mbororo community leader, Souley Garga, was abducted in late 2006 and not released until April 2007 when Souley Garga reportedly paid a ransom of FCFA4 million (US$8,000). Three men abducted at the same time were among others who continued to be held by Zaraguinas who demanded a ransom of FCFA 9 million.

Most of those abducted were Mbororo children. Some were repeatedly abducted until, with no resources left to pay ransoms, their families fled.

  • Zaraguinas abducted two of Weti Bibello's children in 2005, and took one of them again in late 2006. Members of an armed political group and Zaraguinas stole most of his remaining 150 cattle in early 2007. An armed opposition group killed several members of his family in January. Fearing further attacks, Weti Bibello fled with his family to Chad in April.
  • Zaraguinas abducted Mahmoud Damsi, aged 10, and several other children in Paoua at 4am one morning in February. His father, Ibrahim Damsi, paid FCFA 550,000 for his release after selling many of his cows. Zaraguinas beat him severely when he met them to pay the ransom.
  • Ousmane Bi Yunusa's daughter Fatimatou, aged five, was kidnapped in January and her father paid for her ransom by selling the last cow he owned. Fatimatou was released after one month in captivity.
  • Representatives of humanitarian organizations were targeted by armed bandits. On 19 May two workers of an Italian humanitarian organization, Cooperazione Internazionale, COOPI, were abducted by Zaraguinas on the road between Bozoum and Bocaranga. They were released on 29 May. Several workers of the UN office in CAR, BONUCA, were briefly abducted and their property stolen by Zaraguinas in September.

Refugees and internally displaced people

Over 200,000 internally displaced people abandoned their homes, food reserves and other property, which were often looted or destroyed by government soldiers, armed groups or armed bandits. The internally displaced had limited access to humanitarian assistance, and many succumbed to exposure and lack of medical care when they tried to survive in the wild.

At the end of the year, there were some 50,000 CAR refugees in southern Chad, over 26,000 in Cameroon, and several thousand in Sudan. The refugees in southern Chad had limited access to healthcare and other humanitarian assistance, and had only meagre supplies of food. CAR refugees in Cameroon had no access to humanitarian assistance and were largely surviving on assistance provided by the local Cameroonian population and by selling the animals they had been able to flee with.

Freedom of expression

Michel Alkhaly Ngady, a newspaper director and president of the assembly of Central African private press editors, was arrested on 12 March after the High Council of Communication accused him of defamation. He was convicted of defamation by a court and imprisoned for 63 days.

Amnesty International visit/reports

  • Amnesty International delegates visited southern Chad and the Central African Republic in May.
  • Central African Republic: Civilians in peril in the wild north (AFR 19/003/2007)
  • Central African Republic: War against children in the wild north (AFR 19/006/2007)
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