In the Central African Republic, the humanitarian and security situation worsened, following the volatile presidential and legislative elections held in December. Armed groups attacked and killed United Nations peacekeepers and members of the security forces, in addition to committing grave violations against the civilian population, including conflict-related sexual violence. In 2020, displacement increased, as 90,000 refugees fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a further 13,000 fled to Cameroon, Chad and the Republic of the Congo, reversing the trend of population return observed in previous years. In refugee and internal displacement camps where State authorities are absent, armed elements posed threats to civilians. For instance, in Batangafo, families expressed the fear of being pressured to marry women and girls to armed elements. Earlier in the year, measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 had an adverse impact on civilian security. In May, the Ministry of Justice released 676 prisoners, including 59 reported perpetrators of rape, from detention centres, in order to minimize virus transmission. In Ouham- Pendé, when a reintegration project was suspended owing to the pandemic, ex-combatants returned to their activities within armed groups, resulting in increased reports of sexual violence in the area. Incidents of sexual violence also reportedly increased during the transhumance season; the majority of such incidents occurred in the prefectures of Nana-Grébizi, Ouham and Ouham-Pendé, where women and girls were attacked with extreme brutality in isolated areas while carrying out livelihood activities. In one such case, a victim was gang raped by 11 perpetrators and her entire family was killed. In the context of clashes over transhumance corridors, arms bearers have burned houses, raided cattle and used violence as a means of extortion. Another disturbing trend is the practice of Fulani girls being forcibly married to members of armed groups with whom Fulani elements are aligned. Mining sites remained flashpoints for sexual violence in Ouham-Pendé, in which members of Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation and ex-Séléka elements gradually expanded their areas of control, rendering more of the region inaccessible to humanitarian organizations. The proliferation and illicit circulation of small arms facilitated the use of violence against civilians, including rape.
The monitoring of conflict-related sexual violence is challenging owing to the prevailing atmosphere of insecurity, stigmatization, the fear of reprisals, the climate of impunity and the limited available services, the majority of which are provided by international organizations. During the reporting period, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) documented 240 cases of conflict-related sexual violence, affecting 129 girls, 108 women and 3 men. These incidents included 221 rapes or attempted rapes and 12 cases of sexual slavery. Of the total number of incidents documented by MINUSCA during the reporting period, 22 had occurred in previous years. In terms of the profile of the perpetrators, 55 incidents were attributed to Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation, 23 to armed Fulanis, 17 to Union pour la paix en Centrafrique, 16 to anti-balaka elements, 14 to Front populaire pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique, 11 to Front populaire pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique and M ouvement patriotique pour la Centrafrique, 7 to Mouvement patriotique pour la Centrafrique, 3 to the Lord’s Resistance Army, 2 to Front populaire pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique and Union pour la paix en Centrafrique, 2 to Mouvement des libérateurs centrafricains pour la justice, 1 to an ex-Séléka faction, 1 to armed Sudanese militias and the remainder to unidentified perpetrators. A total of 10 cases were attributed to the Armed Forces of the Central African Republic. Service providers recorded 481 cases that had been perpetrated by armed actors.
Impunity remained widespread, despite some important developments. On 5 August, the Security Council imposed sanctions against the leader of Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation, following a briefing by my Special Representative to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2127 (2013)concerning the Central African Republic. In addition to perpetrating the highest number of documented cases during the period under review, Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation demonstrated extreme brutality. In July, combatants from Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation abducted and repeatedly raped eight women, who were released a week later, after villagers paid ransoms. One of the victims, who had been pregnant at the time of her abduction, died as a result of the injuries inflicted on her during the attack. The newly established Commission on Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation will complement the work of national jurisdictions and the Special Criminal Court by investigating grave violations committed between 1959 and 2019, albeit without a judicial mandate.