Peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties caught up in rag­ing CAR con­flict

African Independent - - NEWS - JEAN KASSONGO

Cen­tral Africa Repub­lic, spare a thought for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties caught up in the rag­ing con­flict bat­ter­ing the coun­try.

While thou­sands of peo­ple walk for weeks and hide in the forests, the dis­abled are un­able to flee vi­o­lence and some are es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble to at­tacks while try­ing to flee. Oth­ers face un­safe and un­healthy con­di­tions in dis­place­ment camps.

Peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties may be left be­hind dur­ing flight, or may not sur­vive the jour­ney.

They are of­ten not iden­ti­fied or counted in reg­is­tra­tion or data col­lec­tion ex­er­cises, are ex­cluded from or un­able to ac­cess main­stream as­sis­tance pro­grammes and for­got­ten when spe­cialised ser­vices are set up.

The dis­abled mem­bers of the com­mu­nity, most who have sought sanc­tu­ary at the PK8 camp in Bam­bari, are of­ten the most ex­posed to pro­tec­tion risks, in­clud­ing phys­i­cal and sex­ual vi­o­lence, ex­ploita­tion, harassment and dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Po­lio is the lead­ing cause of dis­abil­ity in the Cen­tral African Repub­lic.

Jar­dina Akombe, a 34-year-old woman with a phys­i­cal dis­abil­ity caused by po­lio, re­calls how she played dead as rebels from the Union for Peace at­tacked the town of Yas­mine in 2017 be­cause she could not run away.

“When the town was at­tacked, I hid in­side my house be­cause I did not stand a chance of flee­ing. My hus­band and our eight chil­dren fled and I have not heard from them,” she said.

Her or­deal, while she was some­what for­tu­nate to live to nar­rate it, mir­rors some of their strug­gles as they are of­ten left be­hind.

Vi­o­lence has in­creased through­out the CAR, par­tic­u­larly be­tween Mus­lim Seleka diehard fac­tions in the cen­tral re­gions and be­tween rebels and Chris­tian ex­trem­ist anti-bal­aka mili­tias in the northwest. Civil­ians are caught in the mid­dle, and some­times tar­geted, de­spite the pres­ence of UN peace­keep­ers.

The gov­ern­ment strug­gles to main­tain con­trol of the cap­i­tal, re­ly­ing on peace­keep­ers for sup­port. An es­ti­mated 461 000 peo­ple are refugees in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries and 421 700 more are in­ter­nally dis­placed.

“I was not able to flee like the oth­ers be­cause I could not find my crutches. I stayed and pro­tected my child un­til the gun­fire stopped,” Geena Malala, an­other dis­abled woman, said.

To add to their mis­ery, those who make it into the dis­place­ment camps have trou­ble ac­cess­ing ba­sic ser­vices.

Lewis Mudge, Africa re­searcher at Hu­man Rights Watch, said a peace ac­cord the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Faustin-Ar­change Touadéra signed with 13 of 14 armed groups ac­tive in the coun­try should bring a respite for civil­ians who have been bru­talised in the con­flict, es­pe­cially peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties who suf­fer vi­o­lence and ne­glect.

“Peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and other at-risk groups should get the pro­tec­tion and as­sis­tance they des­per­ately need.”

Me­di­ated by the Catholic Com­mu­nity of Sant’Egidio, the ac­cord com­mits the par­ties to end their hos­til­i­ties and to recog­nise last year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion re­sults, but is in dan­ger of fu­til­ity as the con­flict rages.

Iron­i­cally, in CAR, dis­crim­i­na­tion against dis­abled per­sons is il­le­gal. The civil ser­vice and large firms are man­dated to em­ploy some dis­abled peo­ple.

CAR is torn by re­newed cri­sis since 2013 when rebel groups over­threw then-Pres­i­dent François Boz­izé. Touadéra’s ad­min­is­tra­tion is bat­tling to re­tain or­der. – CAJ News

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.