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French Books for Child Victims in Central Africa

 InDepth News 13 May 2019

(Originally published: 04/2010) The Central African Republic (CAR) is in dire need of everything – in fact it has been beset by sporadic conflict in recent years between government forces and rebels and a spill-over of violence from neighbouring countries that have left hundreds of thousands of people displaced. (866 words) - By Babukar Kashka

The Central African Republic (CAR) is in dire need of everything - in fact it has been beset by sporadic conflict in recent years between government forces and rebels and a spill-over of violence from neighbouring countries that have left hundreds of thousands of people displaced.

UN agencies are doing what they can. One of them, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is currently working to ensure that some 145,000 children affected by conflict in the CAR have literature, mathematics and science books.

With Belgian funding, the UN agency has so far provided 60,000 mathematics books, 60,000 French books and 2,400 teachers' guides to the ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the educational system in the country is characterised by a low level of access - 56 per cent for boys and 49 per cent for girls in 2008.

The dropout rates are particularly high, especially among girls, at 54 per cent.

The inadequate number of textbooks is detrimental to the quality of learning and the current ratio for the country is about 2 books for 9 students, OCHA notes.


ASSISTANCE VITAL

The situation in CAR is indeed dire.

"International assistance is vital to prevent the country from falling back into political crisis and potential new fighting as it prepares for 2010 elections after a decade of violence and conflict between Government and rebel forces," a top UN official for the country warned on December 15, 2019.

"Concerted regional and international support and assistance are required at this very critical point to support the peace process," UN secretary-general's Special Representative Sahle-Work Zewde stated.

She stressed that the successful holding of elections by the end of April 2010 and the completion of the disarmament and demobilization programme for former fighters before the polls would determine the fate of the political process.

"Mediation efforts and local peace initiatives should continue to ensure that the forthcoming polls do not ignite a new political crisis."

Zewde noted the current level of insecurity generated by those groups that have not yet joined the peace process, as well as the activities of the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which has also spilled over into CAR.

She called for an acceleration of the programme for reintegrating ex-combatants of the various rebel groups that have signed the peace accord as well as the "disarmament of other armed groups, ethnic militias, self-defence and unconventional armed elements" not included in the process.

In his report to the Security Council, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon stressed the critical need for speedy disarmament and demobilization.

"Any further delay in starting the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme may not only negatively affect the holding of elections as scheduled, but could also lead to the frustration of the ex-combatants waiting for disarmament, who may be forced to return to violence," he wrote.

"Efforts must also be made to disarm the other armed groups, including the self-defence groups, the Kara, Goula and Rounga ethnic militias, who are not covered by the current disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme."


CONGOLESE REFUGEES

Central African Republic has been seriously affected by the situation in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There, clashes broke out last October when Enyele militiamen launched deadly assaults on ethnic Munzayas over fishing and farming rights in the Dongo area of Equateur province.

Tensions have enveloped most of Equateur, sending some 114,000 to the Republic of Congo, driving some 60,000 to other parts of the province, and forcing an additional 17,000 people to seek refuge in the Central African Republic.

The government and people of the RoC have once again responded generously to refugees escaping fighting in the DRC, said John Holmes, UN under secretary general for Humanitarian Affairs.

The refugees are scattered across more than 100 sites - living with host families, sheltering in abandoned huts or building makeshift settlements - along a 500-kilometre stretch of the Oubangui River between Liranga district and the RoC's border with the CAR. In most areas, says the UN, they vastly outnumber the local population by a ratio of five to one.


DIAMONDS FOR POVERTY

A former French colony, the Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries in the world and among the ten poorest in Africa. The Human Development Index for the Central African Republic is 0.369, which gives the country a rank of 179 out of 182 countries with data.

It covers a land area of almost 623,000 square kilometres, and has an estimated population of about 4.4 million as per 2008. Bangui is the capital city.

Most of the CAR consists of Sudano-Guinean savannas but it also includes a Sahelo-Sudanian zone in the north and an equatorial forest zone in the south.

Two thirds of the country lies in the basins of the Ubangi River, which flows south into the Congo River, while the remaining third lies in the basin of the Chari River, which flows north into Lake Chad.

CAR exports locally produced alcohol, diamonds, and ivory. But diamonds constitute its most important export, accounting for 40-55 percent of export revenues.

However, an estimated 30-50 percent of the diamonds produced each year leave the country clandestinely.

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