Desire to return home hindered by ongoing conflict in Central African Republic

Published: 23 February 2015 9:50 CET

By Nelly Muluka, IFRC

Conflict in the Central African Republic has claimed thousands of lives and destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of families with homes and businesses now lying in ruins, along with other public and private infrastructure. Hundreds of farmers are feeling helpless, not being able to tend to their farms in the midst of increased food security challenges in the country.

For the past year, hundreds of thousands of families left homeless by the ongoing violence have hunkered down in one of the several camps which now form neighbourhoods in the capital of Bangui. It has been a year of intense hardship with little access to food, clean water, education and health care. Many want to return home, however, the continuing insecurity and a feeling of hopelessness keep them firmly rooted where they are.

“I have been living in this camp for the last year and my greatest wish is to go back home. But where, and what, do we go back to?” asks Debato, an internally displaced person (IDP) who plays the role of leader at an IDP camp in Bangui. “Our houses were destroyed and so were our livelihoods, however, we cannot live in the camp forever. We need to get back to normality, but there are many people out there with weapons and this is a risk to us and our children. We ran away from death and we are not about to go back to the same,” he adds.

Harun, 62, and partially blind, is anxious to pick up the pieces of his life. But like Debato, he has nowhere to go and no one to return to.

“I have been here for months. I long to go back to my wives and children, but where are they? I was informed that they probably went to Chad, but I am not even sure,” says Harun, whose family has lost everything in the conflict.

It is a similar story, repeated over and over across the camps. “I came here as a temporary measure, but days have turned into months,” says Riene, a mother of four. “The children have been asking about going back home. I would really like to take them home but there is no home - our house was destroyed and everything looted.”

Outside of Bangui, the Central African Red Cross Society has noticed a return to relative calm, with refugee families slowly trickling back to their home country. “We are happy that some refugees are starting to trickle back into some parts of the country. However, the needs of the returnees from Chad and Cameroon remain immense, just as those of families which have been internally displaced. After having lived for many months inside the camps and having lost everything, they need to be helped to restart their lives,” says Antoine Mbao Bogo, president of the Central African Red Cross Society, adding that the current violence has had more impact on livelihoods as compared to past violence, where homes, farms and businesses were not as damaged.

Rebuilding will not be an easy task. Violence continues and Red Cross volunteers, tasked with providing assistance to 150,000 people in 23 of the hardest hit regions, are often prevented from working. An emergency appeal, launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has been revised upwards to 10 million Swiss francs. When people like Harun and Debato are finally able to return home, they will be provided with basic building materials to help them restart their lives by rebuilding their lost homes.


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