World News

Central African Republic clashes displace 100,000

LONDON (Reuters) - Fighting in the north of Central African Republic (CAR) has uprooted more than 100,000 people in the last three months and access to them is likely to worsen with the approaching rainy season, a U.N. official said.

Up to one million people have been affected by the clashes between rebel factions and government forces, and thousands of displaced are living in “deplorable conditions”, having fled to remote areas where aid workers have little access, the U.N. deputy chief for Humanitarian Affairs, Catherine Bragg, said.

“The population is living in fear and this is a very unique situation ... where people have fled their villages and gone into the bush for up to three to four years with absolutely no means of survival and very little access by humanitarian agencies,” Bragg told Reuters in a telephone interview from CAR’s capital Bangui late on Wednesday.

Despite an abundance of diamonds and timber, Central African Republic is one of Africa’s poorest and most isolated countries, with a weak government struggling to end several years of internal rebellions.

The insecurity, coupled with potholed roads, means that aid agencies have been unable to reach remote areas hit by the fighting, especially the northeastern region of Ndele which saw deadly clashes last month between security forces and rebels.

In April, humanitarian access to Ndele was completely blocked by government forces because of military operations, Bragg said during a five-day trip to the former French colony.

Although a peace agreement was recently signed, restoring security remains the most pressing issue facing the landlocked country, especially with elections coming up in 2010.

Bragg blamed both the government and rebels for the violence, but added that the complete lack of government presence in the north had not helped matters.

Aid workers say the country and its problems have been overlooked due to larger crises in the rest of the region and as a result donor aid has dropped off in the past two years.

“People think that because the border is too close that somehow the problems of Chad and Darfur are spilling over, but I think that’s exaggerated,” Bragg said.

“The situation is not going to get any better soon and that’s why we need continued humanitarian assistance.”