As reported over the past five years, CAR is a source, transit, and destination country for children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, women subjected to forced prostitution, and adults subjected to forced labor. Observers report most victims are CAR citizens exploited within the country, and a smaller number transported between CAR and Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan, or South Sudan. Traffickers, as well as transient merchants and herders, subject children to domestic servitude, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced labor in agriculture, artisanal gold and diamond mines, shops, and street vending. Within the country, children are at risk of becoming victims of forced labor, and Ba’aka (pygmy) minorities are at risk of becoming victims of forced agricultural work, especially in the region around the Lobaye rainforest. Girls are at risk of being exploited in commercial sex in urban centers. Girls forced into marriages are often subjected to domestic servitude, sexual slavery, and possibly sex trafficking.
Surges in violent conflict in recent years resulted in chronic instability and the displacement of nearly one million people, increasing the vulnerability of men, women, and children to forced labor and sex trafficking. In March 2017, more than 402,000 people remained internally displaced and approximately 464,000 sought refuge in neighboring countries. There is limited information about the forms of exploitation believed to have increased as a result of years of conflict. The recruitment and use of children by armed groups, at times through force, particularly among armed groups aligned with the former Seleka government and the organized village self-defense units fighting against it known as the anti-Balaka, has been widely documented. An international organization reported between 6,000 and 10,000 children were recruited by armed groups during the latest conflict through 2015; some remain under the control of these armed groups. On May 5, 2015, as part of the Bangui Forum for National Reconciliation, 10 armed groups operating in the country agreed to release all children under their control and cease recruitment of child soldiers; however, an international organization reports that during the reporting period, some armed groups are recruiting child soldiers again. Between April and September 2016, 389 children were separated from armed groups. The program for the withdrawal, reintegration, and reintegration into the community of Children Associated with Armed Forces or Groups (EAFGA), which began with the signing of the Bangui Forum Agreement in May 2015, continued and to date 7,506 children were removed from armed groups through this program. The government remained without an effective disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration program. Children formerly associated with armed groups remained at risk of re-recruitment; for example, one armed group re-recruited approximately 150 children in January 2016. Additionally, reports indicated that some anti-Balaka fighters held ethnic Peuhl women and girls as sex slaves. UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) helped to facilitate the rescue of over 90 Peuhl held hostages in southwest for many months.
MINUSCA has over 10,000 peacekeeping forces and police in CAR to protect civilians, provide security, support humanitarian operations, and promote and protect human rights, among other objectives; however, allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers within MINUSCA persisted during the reporting period. The UN reported receiving 50 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by MINUSCA Peacekeepers by December 2016, including 16 incidents which reportedly occurred in 2016, some of which may have involved trafficking victims. Peacekeepers from the DRC and the Republic of Congo allegedly perpetrated the majority of these 50 reported cases; however, soldiers from Bangladesh, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Cameroon, Egypt, and Mauritania were also reportedly involved. In August 2016, MINUSCA peacekeepers and UN civilian staff were also accused of multiple cases of sexual abuse in the country, including the alleged rape by a UN peacekeeper of a 12-year-old girl. More than 100 cases were reported since MINUSCA’s inception in September, 2014.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group that operates in CAR’s eastern regions, continued to enslave Central African, South Sudanese, Congolese, and Ugandan boys and girls for use as cooks, porters, concubines, and combatants. Some of these children may have been taken back and forth across borders into South Sudan or the DRC. In 2016, the LRA abducted 299 people, compared to 217 people abducted in the previous reporting period. One quarter of the abductions were children, 41 of whom are still missing or in captivity. The LRA also committed abductions, forced girls into marriages, and forced children to commit atrocities such as looting and burning villages, killing village residents, and abducting or killing other children. During the reporting period, an international organization reported the LRA abducted at least six children, from a mining camp site in Lipoutou, and 16 people were attacked and abducted by LRA forces in Mbomou; however, it is unclear if they were consequently enslaved. Similar actions by other armed groups are frequently attributed to the LRA.