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State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Central African Republic

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 11 March 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2008 - Central African Republic, 11 March 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48a7ead044.html [accessed 29 December 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.

The impact of the interlocking wars and rebellions in the central African region was felt in CAR. Rebels from Chad and Darfur continue to operate from northern CAR, while the government of General François Bozizé has accused Khartoum of allowing rebels from CAR to base themselves in Darfur. In an attempt to contain the spreading effects of the Darfur war, the United Nations approved the deployment of a 3,700 strong peacekeeping force mainly to Chad, but also to Central African Republic in September 2007. The troops are to be drawn from European Union (EU) nations – and the goal is to protect civilians from cross-border attacks. However, by late 2007 the EU force had run into difficulties – in particular due to the reluctance of states to contribute vital military hardware, such as helicopters, to the mission.

Attention also focused in 2007 on the home-grown rebellions within the CAR. In the past few years, two revolts have been under way in the north: one in the north-east and one in the north-west. An estimated 200,000 civilians have fled their homes during this time – with some 50,000 seeking sanctuary in Cameroon and Chad. Government forces confronting the rebellions have been accused of widespread human rights abuses, including summary executions. While the insurgencies have different dynamics, overall the political and economic marginalization of the north is the dominant factor. In the remote and underdeveloped north-east, the rebellion centres on the Gula ethnic group. In a 2007 report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) describes their grievances as, variously, discrimination against the Gula, and alleged embezzlements of community payments by government officials. After an offensive where the rebel Gula-dominated UFDR seized key towns, government security forces, supported by the French military, struck back. According to HRW, most of the Gula population fled for fear of retaliation by the government forces. However, a peace deal signed in April 2007 between the UFDR and the government has stabilized the situation. In December 2007, the UN noted that, while the situation remained 'fragile', it had been sufficiently good for some displaced civilians to return home.

The difficulties in the north-west, are driven partly by followers of the former president Ange-Félix Patassé (who hails from this region), who feel excluded from political patronage of the Bozizé regime. The unrest is also driven partly by sheer lawlessness, embodied by bandits known as zaraguinas, whose activities lead local communities to seek protection from militias as well as fuelling discontent with the central government's inability to curb the criminal attacks. Cow-herding nomadic tribes, the Mbororo have particularly suffered in this prevailing atmosphere of lawlessness and rebellion across the north. Targeted for their wealth and livestock, many have fled to camps in southern Chad. In April 2007, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced the opening of a new refugee camp in Cameroon, following the flight of some 25,000 Mbororo from CAR. In a statement UNCHR said the Mbororo had been singled out 'relentlessly' by both bandits and rebels, and that 'a small number of those who managed to save some of their livestock continue to graze cattle inside Cameroon. But the others, having lost everything, are in an extremely precarious situation.' In November 2007, Amnesty International reported (War Against Children in the Wild North) on the pervasive practice of child abduction from Mbororo communities, for ransom. Some children have been abducted by zaraguinas more than 10 times. Girls are especially vulnerable; they may be held for months, and raped. Ransoms can be up to $10,000. Amnesty says that state security forces often fail to intervene, even when they are in a position to do so.

In the south of the country, the cultural survival of the forest-dwelling peoples of the CAR – the biggest group of which is the Aka – continues to be in question. UNESCO, which has recognized the unique polyphonic musical traditions of the Aka, warns that 'the scarcity of game resulting from deforestation, the rural exodus and the folklorization of their heritage for the tourist industry are the principal factors contributing to the gradual disappearance of many of their traditional customs, rituals and skills'. Illegal logging presents a huge problem for the Aka: even when logging is supposed to be state-controlled, and conservation measures are in place, there are difficulties. In a November 2007 report, the Forest Peoples Programme reports that in the Dzanga Protected Area Complex – where the Aka have some limited rights to hunt and pursue a traditional lifestyle – the younger generation is losing its forest knowledge, as development opportunities increase and the trend towards sedentarization takes hold. In all walks of life, the Aka still face deep-seated discrimination from other communities in the Central African Republic.

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