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UNHCR: 1.1 Million Central Africans displaced by forgotten conflict

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File photo of UN peacekeepers in C.A.R. The nation has been mired in civil strife since 2013, when rebels seized power.

File photo of UN peacekeepers in C.A.R. The nation has been mired in civil strife since 2013, when rebels seized power.

The world needs to turn its focus to the conflict in the Central African Republic, which has picked up in intensity and displaced a record number of people, the UN Refugee Agency has cautioned.

The number of displaced Central Africans now is higher than the number of people displaced at the height of the conflict in 2014, yet the conflict is barely mentioned in international circles and receives among the lowest funding for ongoing refugee crises across the world. Only about 9% of the $209 million UNHCR requested for the nation has been availed.

The latest figures from the UNHCR show that there are 600,000 internally displaced Central Africans, while another 500,000 are refugees in Cameroon, the DR Congo, Chad and the Republic of Congo.

In effect, about a quarter of the Central African population (4.6 million as of 2016) has been displaced within and beyond its borders.

Yet the situation is even more dire.

“With the crisis well into its fourth year, nearly one in every two Central Africans still needs humanitarian assistance or protection to survive. If the violence goes unchecked, this could fully reverse progress towards recovery in the country,” said UNHCR spokesperson, Andrej Mahecic.

The successful election of a president in 2016 had raised hopes that the nation was on the path to recovery, but the outbreak of violence in May this year dashed much of that hope.

A peace accord signed between rebel groups and the government this June failed to stem the instability which, according to experts, is only likely to increase as the conflicts becomes more ethnicized.

Much of the conflict that has occurred this year has been between rebel groups that once banded under the Seleka coalition to topple the government of Francois Bozize, setting off civil strife in December 2013.

Its purpose achieved, the Seleka, a predominantly Muslim rebel outfit, was disbanded, with the disparate rebel groups carving up their fiefdoms across the country. Anti-balaka militiamen, mostly Christian or animist, quickly sprang up in response to the rampage of these Seleka rebels; by and large, the conflict has been described as a clash between these Muslim Seleka rebels and Christian anti-balaka militia.

Most reported conflicts these year have however been between the UPC and the FPRC, both ex-Seleka, and both predominantly Muslims. The difference between the two is that the UPC is dominated by the Fulani/Peul, while the FPRC recruits from the Gula and Runga ethnicities.

Furthermore, the FPRC has been fighting together with anti-balaka militias to overpower the UPC, an unimaginable partnership just a few months before.

The withdrawal of US and Ugandan troops from the nation’s southeast, where they had been deployed in the search for LRA warlord Joseph Kony, is also creating a security vacuum that will only worsen a perilous situation.