2017 IN BRIEF
For the Central African Republic, after a very positive first quarter, 2017 became a year of spreading conflict.
The south, east, and centre of the country suffered the effects of fighting between armed groups, and an ever-increasing number of civilians found themselves displaced. In particular, spikes in violence and the movement of armed groups attacking villages along the axes that connect the country saw massive increases in displacement in Bria, Haute-Kotto Prefecture (73,000 individuals) and, at the end of the year, in Paoua, Ouham-Pende Prefecture (c. 65,000 individuals). By the end of December, the number of IDPs in CAR had risen to 688,700 – an increase of almost 277,000 in just 12 months. This placed increasing demands on UNHCR’s resources for protection monitoring, assistance, and in its role as cluster lead for the Protection and Shelter/NFI/CCCM Clusters.
In the refugee context, the voluntary repatriation of 1,493 Sudanese Darfuri refugees from Pladama Ouaka Camp near Bambari was a noteworthy achievement. UNHCR is now working with the authorities to integrate the small residual population of 194 individuals into Central African society. This will involve support for livelihoods, ensuring the continued education of children, the provision of health insurance, and an initial support for the construction of permanent shelter as they prepare to leave the camp and become more independent. Camp infrastructure including the health centre and primary school are being handed over to the authorities for the benefit of the local population.
Elsewhere, the violence that gripped the country in 2017 had a profound effect on some refugee populations, none more so than Congolese (DRC) refugees living in the camp in Zemio who were forced to cross the river into DRC to shelter from the armed groups. Although in their home country, they were still not in their area of origin, and many are still waiting for the situation to stabilise sufficiently to allow their return to the camp. It is noteworthy that some Congolese refugees had requested UNHCR to facilitate their repatriation, something that will be done as soon as possible.
Returns and Repatriation
Concerning returns and repatriation, the year began brightly with the completion of the return process for the former inhabitants of all 32 IDP sites in Bangui. This included the closure of the M’Poko Airport site in January 2017. Over the course of the year, some 88,365 IDPs successfully returned to their homes. Many did so through the invaluable support of the Projet d'Appui au Retour et à la Réintégration (PARET), a government agency supported by UNHCR and working under the Ministry of Humanitarian Action and National Reconciliation. Some 47,735 Central African refugees spontaneously returned to the country during 2017: an encouraging increase on the 34,006 who did so the previous year.