The attack on IOM’s office in the Central African Republic (CAR) capital of Bangui on the night of September 27th resulted in the office being extensively ransacked and seriously diminished IOM CAR’s operational capacity.
Other humanitarian agencies have also been attacked and looted during the violence, which caused over 30,000 people to flee to over 40 displacement sites throughout Bangui and Bimbo, in the south east of the capital.
During the attack, aid intended for thousands of people still sheltered in displacement camps was stolen. A defamation campaign against IOM–which implicated the agency in sectarian bias and the storage of weapons–also was launched in local, international and social media, presumably by the looters and their backers.
IOM, which has already assisted over 200,000 Central Africans affected by the conflict since 2013, unequivocally rejects these allegations. It has warned that, unless repudiated by IOM’s partners in the government, the international community and the media, it could create an unacceptable security threat to IOM’s staff and operations.
The “weapons” erroneously referred to in various media included AK-47 rifles and grenades. IOM’s team in Bangui confirms that the mission had no offensive arms, but only the protective vests and helmets that are in standard use among international aid agencies. Approximately 35 such security kits now are missing, presumably taken by the looters.
During the looting of the IOM premises, cash for work materials designated for the work in three districts of Bangui, as well housing rehabilitation materials for more than 350 houses were stolen. The art work of over 100 conflict-affected children from the 1st, 2nd, 5thand 8th districts was stored at the office to be displayed during the school opening ceremonies on September 29th was destroyed.
IOM opened its first CAR office following the mass displacement of almost one million people in December 2013. With the support of the European Union, USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), Canada, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF), IOM has since assisted vulnerable and conflict-affected communities in Bangui, Boda, Kabo and beyond.
Through its site facilitation programme and Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), IOM has been assisting the humanitarian community through the Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster (CCCM), which it co-leads. The DTM gathers data on population movements, humanitarian gaps and humanitarian response.
Since March 2014, IOM has been working with communities of all districts in Bangui through an EU-funded community stabilization project. Over 19,500 youth of all eight districts in Bangui have participated in cash for work rotations of 10 days, earning XFA 25,000 (approx. EUR 48).
The project has helped over 100 civil society organizations to organize recreational activities for communities aimed at creating spaces for intercommunal encounters and dialogue. It has also rehabilitated over 30 infrastructure projects through a vocational training scheme in the most conflict-affected districts. They include a maternity clinic and mayor’s office in the 3rd district; markets in the 5th district; and social and youth centres, schools, bridges and potable water kiosks in various other districts.
In Kabo and Moyenne Sido, Bangui and Boda, IOM supported non-food and food aid distributions and contributed to the rehabilitation of houses of returning displaced people. It is working hand in hand with local and national authorities.
IOM CAR remains committed to its humanitarian mandate and will continue to support the transition process jointly with the authorities, communities and civil society. It thanks all its partners, neighbors and beneficiaries for the expressions of sympathy and support received over this past week.