Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 September 2014, 16:29 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Central African Republic

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 25 May 2004
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2004 - Central African Republic , 25 May 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/40b4593510.html [accessed 23 September 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.

Nearly 41,000 citizens of Central African Republic (CAR) were refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2003, all of them in Chad. About 5,000 CAR refugees repatriated during the year, including some 3,000 from Congo-Kinshasa and 2,000 from Congo-Brazzaville. An estimated 200,000 people were internally displaced in CAR during the year.

Central African Republic hosted some 51,000 refugees and asylum seekers at year's end, including nearly 37,000 from Sudan, some 10,000 from Congo-Kinshasa, nearly 2,000 from Chad, and 2,000 from various other countries. About 500 new refugees and asylum seekers arrived during the year.

Displaced Central Africans

Sporadic political violence and instability have plagued CAR since the mid-1990s, displacing tens of thousands of Central Africans. Continued violence during 2003 pushed steady streams of Central African refugees into neighboring Chad and Congo-Kinshasa. More than 41,000 Central African refugees fled to Chad from northern CAR early in the year. The majority lived without shelter, scattered along the Chadian border with few supplies or food, their villages and fields razed in government and rebel attacks.

In southwestern CAR, some 1,000 Central Africans fled skirmishes between the Central African Army and Congolese MLC rebels south of the capital, Bangui, to Betikoumba near the Oubangui River in northern Congo-Brazzaville.

After seizing Bangui and declaring himself president in March 2003, former army chief François Bozizé invited refugees from CAR to return. Nearly 3,000 Central African refugees ended their two-year exile and repatriated in June from Mole refugee camp in Congo-Kinshasa's Equatorial Province following an amnesty granted to the mostly ethnic Yakoma refugees reportedly supportive of a deadly attempted coup in 2001. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) relocated up to 500 refugees a day and closed Mole camp in June 2003 following the weeklong repatriation of all camp residents. UNHCR supplied repatriating Central Africans with kitchen sets, water jugs, blankets, and sleeping mats. The World Food Programme (WFP) provided the returnees with food rations upon arrival in Bangui. In October, WFP provided an additional 90-day food ration to returnees from Congo-Kinshasa.

In August, UNHCR helped nearly 2,000 CAR refugees repatriate from Betou, northern Congo-Brazzaville. The Africa Union commissioner for refugees provided the CAR government with nominal financial support to help CAR refugees repatriate.

Violence internally displaced thousands of northern Central Africans during the year. Many suffered food shortages, but received no food aid, as poor security hindered international aid agencies' access to the north and forced WFP to suspend food shipments to the country from April to July.

Refugees from Sudan

Large numbers of Sudanese refugees entered CAR in the early 1990s, fleeing civil war in their own country. Few have repatriated. Nearly all Sudanese refugees in CAR lived at Mboki, more than 700 miles (1,200 km) from Bangui in the isolated southeast corner of the country, near CAR's borders with Sudan and Congo-Kinshasa. Several hundred lived in Kaga-Bandoro camp about 200 miles (340 km) north of Bangui. An additional 500 Congolese refugees resided in Bangui. Bad roads and vast distances have made regular delivery of humanitarian aid to Mboki camp unreliable for years. The armed insurgency in CAR effectively cut all road access to Mboki during the first three months of 2003, further isolating the refugee population.

Long-term refugees at Mboki camp are self-sufficient. Most grow crops on about two-and-a-half acres (one hectare) of land CAR authorities provided each family. The refugee camps included a primary and secondary school, and a health clinic.

As in previous years, incursions by Sudanese rebels into eastern CAR continued to endanger refugees at Mboki. Local police continued to arbitrarily arrest and seek bribes from refugees. Poor security in and around the camp and along nearby highways forced UNHCR to close its Mboki office in September.

Refugees from Congo-Kinshasa

More than 10,000 refugees from Congo-Kinshasa lived in CAR, having fled to during 1998-1999 to escape rebel offensives in the north and east of their country. Most Congolese refugees lived on their own in Bangui. Some 3,000 resided in Molangue camp, a former coffee plantation 90 miles (145 km) southwest of Bangui. WFP ended its food distributions in Molangue camp in January 2003. Humanitarian agencies provided camp residents with food, health care, education, adult literacy training, small business loans, and other income-generating activities. With land, seeds, and tools provided by the UN, camp residents produced enough maize to become self-sufficient. UNHCR assisted with the repatriation of 1,000 refugees from Congo-Kinshasa and Congo-Brazzaville in June 2003.

The failure of the CAR government to sign a Tripartite Agreement with Congo-Kinshasa and UNHCR disrupted the repatriation of Congolese and Central African refugees during the year.

Refugees from Chad

Human rights violations by government and rebel troops in Chad pushed up to 18,000 Chadian refugees fled into CAR during the 1990s. Most refugees have returned to Chad during the past seven years. Nearly 2,000 Chadian refugees continued to live in CAR at the end of 2003, supporting themselves with little or no assistance from aid agencies. Some refugees reported threats and mistreatment by government troops during the year. An unknown number of Chadians fled fighting in northern CAR and repatriated to Chad during the year.

Asylum Seekers from Rwanda

Rwandan asylum seekers in CAR have attracted controversy because some of them allegedly participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. They trekked across the breadth of Congo-Kinshasa in 1996 – 97 to escape Rwandan soldiers who hunted them until they reached CAR. Officials in CAR suspected that some Rwandan asylum seekers participated in a 1991 coup attempt against the CAR government.

Government authorities continued to classify the Rwandan population as "asylum seekers in transit" and refused to provide aid or identity documents to most of them. An agreement between the governments of CAR and Rwanda in February 2002 arranged for the asylum seekers to return home voluntarily, but the vast majority continued to refuse to repatriate during 2003 fearing forced conscription into the Rwandan army.

Search Refworld