Central African Republic's new president must prioritize the issue of civilian protection - with the support of the international community

Oxfam International - 2/12/2016 3:05:00 PM

Central Africans will on Sunday elect a new president whose first task must be to end the violence which continues to devastate the country, and to provide better protection for its exhausted population. This is only be achievable with the staunch support of the international community.

The situation across the country is dire. At least six thousand people have been killed since violence erupted in March 2013. Easy access to weapons across the country makes attacks against civilians an everyday occurrence from the multiple and fragmented armed groups. Between January and October 2015, there were reported 60,000 cases of violence against women and children - the equivalent of 200 a day. The number of people struggling to find enough to eat has doubled in the past year leaving more than half the population hungry. In recent weeks, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has scaled-up attacks, kidnapping dozens of people, including children, and displacing over 2,200 more. Despite some localized improvements in security during the transition, one in five Central Africans remains displaced.

Ferran Puig, Oxfam's Central African Republic Country Director, said: "Armed groups have been driven out of the cities into rural areas by the presence of UN peacekeepers. Communities live in fear of rampant abuse and are unable to rebuild their livelihoods. In the cities, common criminals and vigilante groups ensure that the violence continues. All of this is exacerbated by the wide spread availability of weapons. Security and protection must be at the top of the incoming president's agenda.

"UN peacekeepers must react quickly to the many changing threats across the Central African Republic. Improved coordination is needed with the African Union Regional Task Force which is also operating within the country, including initiatives to strengthen protection for civilians in all areas, with a particular focus on contacting communities", said Puig.

Today, only 2,100 out of potentially tens of thousands of armed fighters have been registered for the National Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation (DDRR) program.

"Weapons must be collected from combatants and non-combatants alike and the whole process be sped up. The new Central African Government must work closely with regional governments, and the international community should immediately provide funding. The initial announcement of the DDRR process created many expectations. Several groups demobilized but they have retained their weapons and are waiting for the process to start. The delay is leading some individuals to attack civilians and NGOs," Puig said.