Central African Republic

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2018/250) issued on 16 April 2018.

As insecurity spread to previously stable regions of eastern Central African Republic during 2017, conflict-related sexual violence also increased in severity and scale. Armed clashes propelled mass population movements, including across the border to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with numerous cases of sexual violence occurring during flight. Internally displaced persons number more than 688,000 nationwide, with armed elements posing a threat to civilians in the camps due to the absence of Government personnel to manage and secure the sites. Sexual violence employed as a tool of intimidation, retaliation and punishment, in order to terrorize entire families and communities, have been reported with shocking regularity. Patterns of sexual violence of an ethnic and sectarian nature impede the mobility needed for women to undertake vital economic and livelihood activities, such as gaining access to fields and markets. The rape of men and boys has also been a feature of attacks by armed groups on civilian villages, such as in Nana-Grébizi or in Basse-Kotto where 13 men were raped. Children conceived through rape are rarely accepted by society, and unsafe abortion remains a leading cause of maternal mortality.

During the reporting period, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) documented 308 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence, affecting 155 women, 138 girls (including 48 recruited by armed groups), 13 men and 2 boys. Those incidents included 253 rapes, of which 181 were gang rapes, five attempted rapes, 28 forced marriages, 2 cases of sexual slavery and 20 cases of other sexual assault. The perpetrators included elements of ex-Séléka (179 cases), anti-balaka (55), the Lord’s Resistance Army (14) and Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation (12). A member of the armed forces of the Central African Republic was also implicated in one incident. The 179 cases attributed to ex-Séléka elements included: 36 cases perpetrated by the coalition of the Front populaire pour la renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC) and the Mouvement patriotique pour la Centrafrique (MPC); 29 by the coalition of MPC and Révolution et justice (RJ); 39 by Union pour la paix en Centrafrique; 17 by MPC; 14 by the Front démocratique du peuple centrafricain; nine by FPRC; one by the Rassemblement patriotique pour le renouveau de la Centrafrique; one by RJ; and 33 by unspecified elements.

Humanitarian service providers assisted 272 survivors of rape perpetrat ed by parties to the conflict. In the face of the virtual collapse of the public health system, most medical and psychosocial support services are provided by non-governmental organizations. The scarcity of services is compounded by poor infrastructure, including limited transportation, which poses particular challenges for women in remote, rural areas. As a consequence, only 36 per cent of registered victims were able to gain access to emergency assistance within 72 hours of the incident. Of the victims of rape receiving care, 98 per cent of the adults were women and 99 per cent of the children were girls. In 2017, the United Nations Children’s Fund and partners helped to secure the release of 3,419 children (1,090 girls and 2,329 boys) from armed groups, with most of the forcibly-recruited girls reporting incidents of sexual abuse. Girls associated with armed groups who return home pregnant or with children are often rejected by their communities, forcing many to turn to sex work as a means of survival. In some cases, stigmatization is itself a driver of displacement: two girls from Haute-Kotto who became pregnant as a result of rape were forced to relocate to different districts to escape abuse by their families. Instability has also perpetuated child marriage as a perceived means of protecting girls from sexual violence. 29. In August, the United Nations registered the first case in which members of a party to the conflict were convicted for crimes of sexual violence , namely, two anti-balaka elements for the rape of a 16-year-old girl in Bambari. Although their public trial sends an important message, they received lenient sentences of two years’ imprisonment and a fine. MINUSCA conducted sensitization sessions with ex-combatants, local authorities and community members to raise awareness of the gravity of sexual violence. The Government has accelerated efforts to activate the special criminal court established in law in 2015 through the appointment of national and international staff. President of the Central African Republic Faustin Archange Touadéra inaugurated the joint rapid intervention unit on sexual violence in June 2017, which has since addressed 254 complaints.

Recommendation

I encourage the Government to ensure the provision of medical, psychosocial and legal support services to survivors of conflict-related sexual violence and to provide the means necessary, including a dedicated budget, to strengthen the capacity of the joint rapid intervention unit on sexual violence to investigate cases, working in collaboration with the prosecutor of the special criminal court. I call upon the Government to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of cases of sexual violence, including the provision of adequate protection for victims and witnesses.