Although government forces and armed groups maintained a cease-fire for much of the year, civilians often were killed, abducted, displaced from their homes, or generally restricted in their movements as a result of continuing internal conflicts.
In December the security situation deteriorated as the Seleka rebel alliance, composed largely of the UFDR, Patriotic Convention for Justice and Peace (CPJP), and Patriotic Convention for Salvation of Kodro, took control of much of the northern part of the country and advanced to within 45 miles of Bangui. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that an estimated 800,000 persons were living in the affected areas and that violence had “seriously disrupted” life-saving humanitarian measures. Security forces and youth linked to President Bozize’s political party reportedly arrested or detained suspected members of the Gula and Rounga ethnic groups, who were typically found among the Seleka alliance rebels.
Seleka reportedly recruited and used child soldiers to loot food from civilians. The World Food Program reported that 220 tons of humanitarian foods supplies were stolen in Bambari and Bria, two of the towns held by Seleka. Reports of sexual violence continued in areas under the control of rebels.
In January a joint military action of the FACA and the National Army of Chad attacked forces of the rebel Popular Front for Reconstruction (FPR) in the villages of Takara and Gondava. The action resulted in an unknown number of deaths and the destruction of several villages, which displaced more than 10,000 civilians in the area. Chadian soldiers remaining in the area after the attack reportedly killed those suspected of being FPR members.
In addition, attacks on civilians by the LRA prolonged the humanitarian crisis in the southeast, contributing to the continued presence of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the LRA-affected areas.
Killings: In September, FACA soldiers shot and killed Hassan al-Habib, also known as Colonel H.A., spokesman for the CPJP Fundamental rebel group, an offshoot of the CPJP, near the town of Dekoa. Al-Habib was reportedly exiting a store when he was shot by security forces, apparently in retaliation for CPJP Fundamental’s earlier attacks on two villages north of Bangui.
Killings by Rebel Groups: During the year the LRA committed 42 attacks, killing 20 persons and abducting 84 in the country.
In March the mutilated bodies of 13 miners were found near Bakouma in the southeast by employees of a safari company. International observers assessed that the LRA likely committed the killings (see section 1.d.).
Killing by International Forces Members: On August 15, a dispute in Bangui between a member of the Chadian contingent of FOMAC and a CAR gendarme patrol led to the killing of the Chadian, who drew his gun first. Subsequently, a group from the Chadian contingent arrived and shot two CAR gendarmes before returning to their base.
There were no further developments in the March 2011 killing of eight persons by the CJPJ and the June 2011 killing of the chief medical officer in Haut Mbomou Province by the LRA.
Killings by Unidentified Groups: On April 3, an unidentified group of assailants attacked a truck carrying several passengers near Baboua, in Nana Mambere Prefecture. The road bandits opened fire on the vehicle, shot and killed four passengers, and injured eight before looting the vehicle.
On August 19, an unidentified group of armed men killed two men. The same group was suspected of killing another man in Boali earlier in August.
Abductions: In September an unknown armed group abducted two Chinese road workers near the town of Bouar. At year’s end the victims’ whereabouts were unknown; they were presumed to be in the custody of their abductors.
The LRA continued to commit numerous abductions throughout the southeast. For example, in early September, LRA rebels kidnapped at least 55 persons during raids, including 41 kidnapped in Balifondo village and 14 in Zobe Mbari village. Reportedly, half of those kidnapped were girls.
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.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Government forces and armed groups mistreated civilians, including reportedly through torture, beatings, and rape, in the course of the conflicts.
In September the dead bodies of five new military recruits were brought to Bangui from their training facility in Bouar. The victims were reportedly tortured during their exercises and died of their injuries.
International and domestic observers reported that 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. In other cases armed Mbororo committed attacks against local farmers over land disputes.
Some observers noted the use of rape by both government forces and nonstate armed entities to terrorize the population throughout the country. Because of the social stigma attached to rape, these cases were rarely reported. Several NGOs and UN agencies conducted gender-based violence awareness and treatment campaigns throughout the country.
Gender-based violence was prevalent throughout the country, particularly in conflict zones. In February unidentified armed men raped two women near the town of Zacko. In May humanitarian organizations reported civilians being raped by members of the FPR in the Kaga Bandoro area and the Democratic Front for the Central African People in the Batangafo area. Rapes rarely were reported or documented due to the sensitivity of the problem within the community and fear of retaliation.
Child Soldiers: According to numerous human rights observers, some armed groups included soldiers as young as 12. They noted the UFDR, the CPJP, and the now-disbanded People’s Army for the Restoration of Democracy (APRD) agreed to stop recruiting child soldiers as a result of disarmament, demobilization, and reinsertion activities, but in some areas children were still observed as lookouts or porters and, in certain cases, were engaged as combatants. In November 2011 the CPJP signed an Action Plan on Child Soldiers, in the presence of UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy, in which it committed to the demobilization of child soldiers in its ranks. UNICEF and others noted that while the child soldiers were willing to demobilize and were anxious to attend school, their home communities lacked the most basic infrastructure.
Several NGO observers reported that self-defense committees, established by towns to combat armed groups and bandits in areas where the FACA or gendarmes were not present or were incapable of providing effective security, used children as combatants, lookouts, and porters. UNICEF estimated that children constituted one third of the self-defense committees’ personnel.
The LRA continued to kidnap children and force them to fight, act as porters, or function as sex slaves. Between July 2009 and February 2012, the LRA abducted an estimated 102 children (64 boys and 38 girls) in the country.
Displaced children were sometimes forced to work as porters, carrying stolen goods for groups of bandits.
See Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip.
Other Conflict-related Abuses: In December, Seleka rebels were reported to have looted food and supplies from civilians and NGO and UN offices in the areas they controlled, including Bria and Kaga Bandoro.
In numerous cases international NGO personnel were victims of carjackings and thefts despite the presence of FACA and FOMAC forces. In November local security forces pursuing rebels in Batangafo forcibly seized several vehicles from two international NGOs.
On October 29, on the Kabo/Batangafo road in the northwest CAR, unidentified armed men attacked a convoy led by an international NGO, Solidarites International. This attack came as humanitarian organizations resumed their activities in the area, which were suspended in June due to recurring violence.
FOMAC peacekeepers and government forces conducted joint security operations to secure the northern region and control the proliferation of small arms. Despite these operations the government was not able to provide sufficient security or protection for IDPs in the north.
In the northwest members of government security forces, including the FACA and presidential guard, continued to garrison in the larger towns and occasionally engaged in combat with armed groups and bandits. While the cease-fire between government forces and armed groups allowed some displaced persons to return home, approximately 225,000 persons remained displaced, including 75,000 internally displaced and 150,000 in Chad and Cameroon.
Bandits and armed groups, including former combatants who helped President Bozize come to power in 2003, severely impeded internal movement, particularly in northern and northwestern areas that the government did not control.
Sporadic fighting between armed groups, attacks on civilians by armed groups, armed banditry, and occasional abuse by government soldiers kept many IDPs from their homes. In September the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated the number of IDPs to be approximately 66,000.
The overwhelming majority of IDPs were in the northwestern province of Ouham and the southeast provinces of Mbomou and Haut-Mbomou, where civilians remained displaced from their villages due to fear and lived in the bush for much of the year, returning occasionally to their fields to plant or scavenge. NGOs and UN agencies observed some civilians returning home in Bamingui-Bangoran and Haute-Kotto; however, LRA-related violence in Mbomou and armed conflict in Ouham during the year created newly displaced populations.
Hygiene-related illnesses and chronic malnutrition continued. Attacks or fear of attacks prevented many subsistence farmers from planting crops. Conflict between IDPs, nomadic cattle herders, and security forces in Ouham contributed to insecurity and an inability to return to home villages. Chronic insecurity also rendered the north occasionally inaccessible to commercial, humanitarian, and developmental organizations, contributing to the lack of medical care, food security, and school facilities. Humanitarian organizations continued to supply some emergency relief and assistance to displaced populations, although deteriorated roads, frequently changing security situations, and sporadic fighting hampered long-term development projects.
The government did not attack or target the IDPs, although some were caught in fighting between armed groups. The government provided little humanitarian assistance, but it allowed UN agencies and NGOs access to these groups to provide relief.
While a number of refugees spontaneously returned during the year, other Central Africans continued to flee the country (see section 2.d.).
There were credible reports that the following armed groups perpetrated serious human rights abuses in the country: the APRD, CPJP, FPR, LRA, and UFDR.