On 29 April, the United Nations Security Council joined with other UN bodies in calling for an end to human rights abuses – including rape and gender violence – in the Central African Republic. There have been numerous reports of sexual assaults in the capital of Bangui and elsewhere in the country since a coup in late March.
The risk to civilians has been rising in the weeks following the coup that ousted then-President François Bozizé and left a rebel coalition known as Séléka, led by Michel Djotodia, ruling the country. There have been at least 19 reported cases of sexual violence in Bangui and the town of Berberati, and more in the region of Sangha Mbaéré, though stigma and lack of policing structures means that actual numbers are likely much higher.
Local journalists state that women have been fleeing the Bangui district of Boy-Rabe to escape widespread rape. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Navi Pillar, called the situation “extremely worrying”, while UN Special Rapporteur on Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui confirmed that multiple cases of rape against women and girls, including “collective rape”, have been reported to the UN.
Significant numbers of Central Africans have fled the violence into neighbouring Chad and Democratic Republic of Congo, where organizations such as CARE International are now concerned about possible sexual violence in the camps. UNHCR reports that 5,800 people have arrived in the southern Sido region of Chad since March, adding to the 17,000 refugees who were already there. Meanwhile, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies had documented 22,000 Central African refugees in DRC. UNHCR is now advising against repatriating refugees until the risk of violence, rape, and other forms of abuse subsides.
The UN Security Council released a statement after a briefing with UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, recently returned from CAR. In the statement, the Council condemns the ongoing human rights abuses, in particular widespread rape, and urges the rebels’ transitional council to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access to the country.
Read the UN Security Council's statement here.
Read CARE International's coverage of refugees fleeing to Chad here.
UN political chief urges rebels to establish law and order and protect civilians from attacks, Washington Post, 22 April 2013