New York, US - The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) has expressed concern over widespread looting and displacement in various parts of the Central African Republic (CAR), and appealed to the government to enhance access to vulnerable population so they can receive assistance.
The UNCHR said in a statement on Wednesday that the development was discovered after it conducted an assessment mission last week in Bambariregion in the country.
The UN refugee agency said that it found many villages completely deserted, with residents hiding in the bush from armed groups and looters.
'The villagers we managed to speak to reported aggression by armed groups seeking fuel, money and food,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said.
'The visits of these groups are sometimes accompanied by violence against men and women, including beatings with electric cables. A village chief reported being flogged on 3 February by rebels who were trying to get him to reveal where villagers were hiding their possessions,’’ he said.
The statement said that CAR has a history of political instability and recurring armed conflict.
The country saw renewed fighting in December, when an alliance of rebel groups known, collectively, as ‘Séléka’, launched a series of attacks and took control of major towns before agreeing to start peace talks under the auspices of the regional group known as the
Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
It also said that the assessment mission, which was carried out jointly by UNHCR and Mercy Corps, was the first since the last wave of violence began in December.
The UNHCR spokesperson also said that looting had occurred in towns controlled by Séléka rebels, including Bambari and Kaga Bandoro, where UNHCR has offices.
He added that humanitarian facilities and refugee camps such as Camp Pladama Ouaka, where some 2,000 Sudanese refugees live, have been a main target.
The refugee agency estimates the combined loss of its aid supplies and damage to its office premises at US$316,000.
Currently, UNHCR said there are about 80,000 IDPs in the country, and a refugee population of 17,000 mostly of Sudanese origin.