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Protect the displaced and help them return to build peace in Central Africa, UN expert says

BANGUI (16 July 2010) – “Respect for the rights of the 200,000 remaining internally displaced persons, and sustainable solutions to their displacement, are an integral part of the peace building process in the Central African Republic» Walter Kaelin, Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), said at the end of a week-long visit to the country.

Kaelin underscored that: “Efforts to build sustainable peace will be weakened as long as entire communities remain displaced and in despair. The return and reintegration of internally displaced persons, whose rights have been violated, are crucial factors for a sustainable peace.” He also underscored the importance of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of combatants in order to achieve sustainable solutions for displaced persons. This is Kaelin’s third visit to the country since 2007.

Earlier in the week, Kaelin, accompanied by the President of the governmental Committee for the Protection of IDPs, visited displacement-affected areas in the north of the country. “The humanitarian situation has stabilised compared to 2007, when I first came here, and there has been a substantial number of returns that need to be supported. However, those who remain displaced still face a humanitarian crisis, and their children have now remained without any access to education for years. Large numbers of displaced persons are exposed to insecurity caused, notably, by banditry.”

Kaelin is particularly preoccupied with the situation around Ndélé (Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture), where Government security forces and a politico-military movement, the Convention des patriotes pour la justice et la paix (CPJP), have clashed. “Many people have fled into the bush where they remain without any humanitarian assistance, suffering from a shortage of food, drinking water and the total absence of health services. I have also received reliable reports about acts of grave violence committed against civilian populations.” Kaelin called on all parties to the conflict to scrupulously respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Kaelin is also alarmed about the situation in the southeast of the country (Mbomou and Haut Mbomou prefectures): “Several thousands of people have been newly displaced, because the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has committed ruthless and atrocious attacks against the civilian population.” Kaelin called on the Government of the Central African Republic to ensure, with the support of the international community, the protection of the civilian population, and in this context to reinforce the presence of security forces in the region.

The Representative is deeply concerned that humanitarian access to several regions in the country is severely restricted due to security reasons. At the same time, he referred to encouraging discussions regarding the lifting of military restrictions on humanitarian access to areas outside Ndélé and its surroundings.

During his visit, Kaelin also had the opportunity to participate in a workshop (15 and 16 July), in which the Central African Government and other stakeholders developed a vision for legislation on internal displacement. “With a law on internal displacement, the Central African Republic would set an example for the Great Lakes Region and create the legal and institutional framework necessary to address the serious challenges on the ground and take on its responsibilities to protect and assist internally displaced persons.”

The Representative also called on the international community to continue supporting humanitarian activities, as well as, jointly with the Central African Government, to focus on recovery efforts and the necessary assistance so that displaced persons can rebuild their lives.

Walter Kaelin, Professor of Law in Bern (Switzerland), has been the Representative of the Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons since 2004. His visit to the Central African Republic (10 to 17 July 2010) is the third time he has visited the country since 2007.

Learn more about the mandate and work of the UN Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/idp/index.htm

OHCHR County Page – The Central African Republic: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/CFIndex.aspx