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Central African Conflict (2009-2012)

The UN took over EUFOR's military role in the region on March 15, 2009. MINURCAT was authorized to establish a presence in Birao in northeastern Central African Republic to create a more secure environment, protect civilians and humanitarian workers in danger; and to protect United Nations personnel, facilities, installations and equipment and to ensure the security and freedom of movement of its staff and United Nations and associated personnel. At the behest of the Chadian Government, MINURCAT departed Chad, and as a result the C.A.R., in late 2010.

The Central African Republic tried without much luck to clean up its reputation as the smugglers haven and corruption ridden country. Central African Republic was a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation; the majority of victims are children trafficked within the country for sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, street vending, and forced agricultural, mine, market and restaurant labor; to a lesser extent, children are trafficked from the Central African Republic to Cameroon, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo; rebels conscript children into armed forces within the country.

Spontaneous demonstrations take place in the CAR from time-to-time in response to world events or local developments. Armed rebel groups, bandits, and poachers present real dangers, and the Central African government was unable to guarantee the safety of visitors in most parts of the country. Northwestern and eastern CAR, especially the areas bordering Chad and Sudan, are particularly dangerous due to clashes between government and rebel forces. The continued presence of the Lord's Resistance Army in eastern CAR poses a particular safety and security threat. Bandits, militias, and cross-border rebel activity in the north and northeast also threaten the security of residents and travelers. Travel to these regions was strongly discouraged. Bangui itself, though safer, suffers from elevated crime rates, as well as severely limited transport and medical options. The CAR military and civilian security forces (and people posing as such) staff checkpoints throughout the city, frequently harassing local and expatriate travelers for bribes.

During previous periods of civil unrest and conflict, including most recently in 2011 and 2012, citizens engaged in violent, sometimes deadly, demonstrations which included widespread looting, burning of buildings and blocking of roads. In the northern and western parts of the country, there are frequent reports of armed robbery and kidnapping by highway bandits (called “coupeurs de routes” or “zaraguinas”), especially during the December to May dry season. When a crime does occur in Bangui, the victim may have to pay to send a vehicle to pick up police officers due to the shortage of police vehicles and fuel. Corruption remains a serious problem among the CAR security forces, some members of which have harassed travelers for bribes. At night, the roads in the capital are often manned with impromptu checkpoints, at which police or soldiers ask motorists and travelers for money.

Although most observers agree that a successful disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration DDR) process was vital to create a stable environment, the DDR process continued to experience delays. The DDR process was estimated to require a total of US$27 million. Financial support came from the UN Peace Building Fund, sub-regional organizations such as the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) and the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC), and neighboring countries, but a funding gap still remained by the end of 2009.

Rebels and armed groups routinely restricted movement by setting roadblocks or otherwise closing transit routes. Merchants and traders traveling the more than 350-mile route from Bangui to Bangassou encountered an average of 25 military barriers. While the fees extorted varied for private passengers, commercial vehicles reported paying fees of up to 9,000 to 10,000 CFA francs ($18 to $20) at each checkpoint to continue their journeys.

Prison conditions were rudimentary, harsh, and substantially below international standards. Prison conditions outside Bangui generally were worse than those in the capital. Police, gendarme investigators, and presidential guards assigned as prison wardens continued to subject prison inmates to torture and other forms of inhuman, cruel, and degrading treatment. Most prisons lacked basic sanitation and ventilation, electric lighting, basic and emergency medical care, and sufficient access to potable water. Prison recordkeeping was inadequate and largely nonexistent. Conditions in detention centers were worse than those in prisons. Corruption among guards was pervasive. Escapes by detainees, including incarcerated members of the armed forces, are prevalent.

Authorities continued to arrest individuals, particularly women, and charge them with witchcraft, an offense punishable by execution, although no one received the death penalty during 2011. There were two prisons in Bangui, Ngaragba Prison for men and Bimbo Central Prison for women [Bimbo (also, Bimo) was the capital of Ombella-M'poko, one of the 14 prefectures of the Central African Republic, and the one in which the capital of Bangui was located]. Prison officials at Bimbo Central Prison for women stated that accused witches were detained for their own safety, since village mobs sometimes killed suspected witches. In November 2011 prison authorities stated that six of the 30 women in Bimbo Central Prison were incarcerated for purported witchcraft. In Ngaragba Prison there were 17 detainees held on witchcraft-related charges.

In April 2011 near Kaga Bandoro, the People's Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD), a nonstate armed entity, arrested and reportedly tortured a man for allegedly practicing witchcraft. APRD members tied the man to a tree, beat him and cut off two of his toes to force a confession. After confessing, the man escaped, and the APRD responded by arresting his mother and reportedly torturing her. No further information was available at year's end. In May near Kaga Bandoro the APRD arrested a man for alleged shape shifting, a form of witchcraft. When he managed to flee, the APRD arrested his mother, stripped her naked, beat her, and forced her to pay a fine of 100,000 CFA francs ($200) before releasing her.

State security forces and members of nonstate armed entities, including Chadian soldiers and bandits, continued to attack cattle herders, primarily members of the Mbororo ethnic group. Many observers believed Mbororo were targeted primarily because of their perceived foreign origins, relative wealth, and the vulnerability of cattle to theft. One UN agency reported that, according to its NGO partners in the affected region, Mbororo cattle herders were also disproportionately subjected to kidnapping for ransom. A UN agency working in the area indicated the perpetrators often kidnapped women and children and held them for ransoms of between one million and two million CFA francs ($2,000-$4,000). Victims whose families did not pay were sometimes killed. Nonstate armed entities in the country continued to conduct frequent attacks on the Mbororo population on the Cameroonian side of the border, despite the Cameroonian government's deployment of security forces.



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