As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in CAR, and traffickers exploit victims from CAR abroad. Most government officials, as well as civil society, lack an understanding of trafficking in persons, hindering the country’s ability to identify victims and address the crime. Observers report traffickers primarily exploit CAR nationals within the country and transport a smaller number of victims between CAR and Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, or South Sudan. Traffickers—including transient merchants, herders, and armed groups—exploit children in domestic servitude and commercial sexual exploitation, as well as in forced labor in agriculture, artisanal gold and diamond mines, shops, and street vending within CAR. Also within the country, some relatives exploit children in forced labor in domestic work, and community members exploit aka (pygmy) minorities in domestic servitude, especially in the southwest of the country. Some relatives or community members coerce girls into forced marriages and subsequently exploit the girls in forced labor in domestic servitude or sex trafficking. Some authorities’ prejudice against individuals in commercial sex—despite its prevalence—hinders victims’ access to justice and assistance.
Observers reported Central African criminal elements sexually exploit girls as young as 13 in maisons de joie (houses of joy) throughout Bangui. Maisons de joie are private residences with little official oversight where CAR nationals serve alcohol and food to middle and upper class customers as a cover to exploit girls and women in commercial sex. Criminals reportedly take advantage of abject poverty across the country to recruit these girls with the promise of money for their children or families.
Violent conflict since 2012 has resulted in chronic instability and the displacement of more than one million people, increasing the vulnerability of men, women, and children to forced labor and sex trafficking. As of September 2019, approximately 600,000 people remained internally displaced and vulnerable to trafficking inside the country, 592,000 individuals sought refuge in neighboring countries, and roughly 7,000 refugees from neighboring countries remained within CAR.
Militias associated with Anti-Balaka; Ex-Seleka; Lords Resistance Army; Return, Reclamation, and Rehabilitation (3R); and other armed groups continued to forcibly recruit and use child soldiers in CAR. Additionally, observers reported government security forces may have used minors at two checkpoints. International organizations reported armed groups recruited children to serve as combatants, servants, child brides, and sex slaves in 2019; armed groups also subjected children to forced labor in the mining sector. Since the conflict began in 2012, armed groups have recruited more than 14,000 children; during the reporting period, militias primarily recruited and used child soldiers from the prefectures of Basse-Kotto, Haute-Kotto, Mbomou, Nana-Grebizi, Nana-Mambere, and Ouaka. Experts noted armed groups were still using approximately 12,000 children in combat and support roles throughout the country at the end of the reporting period. Although some children initially join locally-organized community defense groups to protect their families from opposing militias, many commanders maintain influence over these children even after they are demobilized, increasing their risk of re-recruitment. Inadequately funded reintegration programming, continuing instability, and a lack of economic opportunity throughout the country exacerbate the risks of re-recruitment among former child soldiers.
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic has 14,584 civilian and military staff in CAR to protect civilians, provide security, support humanitarian operations, and promote and protect human rights, among other objectives. The UN reported there were 36 pending investigations and three substantiated cases of sexual abuse in 2019.