Military groups in Central African Republic rob children of education

UPC fighters stationed outside a kindergarten in Ngadja. The school has been used as a base since October 2014 UPC fighters stationed outside a kindergarten in Ngadja. The school has been used as a base since October 2014 © Edouard Dropsy for Human Rights Watch

22 June 2017
A report from Human Rights Watch has documented the occupation and abuse of schools for military purposes, such as for barracks or bases.

In the Central African Republic (CAR), children are currently being prevented from getting an education due to the occupation and destruction of schools by armed groups. A report released by Human Rights Watch is based on research conducted in November 2016 and January 2017, in order to document events regarding the occupation of schools for military purposes, as well as the lack of safety and education available to students. The research was conducted in the Lobaye, Nana Grébizi, Nana-Mambéré, Ouaka, Ouham, and Ouham-Pendé provinces.

  1. Background

The conflict in the CAR began with the Seleka rebel group in the northeast. The Seleka consists of mainly Muslim rebels, who suffered from impoverishment under the government of Francois Bozizé. On March 24th, 2013, the Seleka seized Bangui, overthrowing the government of Bozizé. Later that same year, Christian and animist groups formed the anti-balaka militia and organized counterattacks against the Seleka. The group has frequently targeted Muslim civilians as they associate all Muslims with the Seleka.

By 5 December 2013, African Union (AU) peacekeepers, as well as French forces, had effectively pushed most of the Seleka out of Bangui. The Seleka fighters started to move east, where the group split into numerous factions. Some of the more significant Seleka factions include the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC), the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central Africa (FPRC), and the Central African Patriotic Movement (MPC). The FPRC and the UPC started to have conflict, and then the FPRC and MPC allied with the anti-balaka forces in Ouaka.

Even before the crisis began in the CAR, it was already ranked as one of the worst places to be a student. The Seleka has only contributed to worsening an already weak education system. Both the Seleka and anti-balaka have looted schools to the point that in many schools there was nothing left to steal.

  1. Use of Schools by Armed Groups Impairs or Denies Education

Human Rights Watch visited 12 schools that are either currently or were previously occupied by an armed group. Many of the schools that had previously been occupied were left too damaged to be used. The result of the armed group occupations has left many students too scared to go to school.

As of 2013, the Human Rights Watch has documented five occasions where even peacekeepers from the AU mission, MISCA, and the MINUSCA have used schools as bases. These recent occupations of schools are disturbing violations of the MINUSCA’s own values, which include not using schools for any purpose.

Even in vacated schools there is still imminent risk for both teachers and students. Many of the vacated schools also continue to be closed as armed groups tend to be closer in proximity to the schools.

Of the 12 schools researched in this report, eight were either occupied or continuously affected by the Seleka occupation from the UPC, MPC, or FPRC.

  1. Legal Protections

The Law of Armed Conflict is the law that regulates conduct in armed conflicts. Under Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions, it is stated that there must be a “fundamental guarantee” that children receive an education. Intentionally directing attacks against schools when they are not military objectives constitutes a war crime. I

International human rights law guarantees students, teachers, academics, and all education staff the right to life, liberty, and security, as well as ensuring the survival and development of children.

On 24 December 2015, the head of MINUSCA, Parfait Onanga-Ayanga, issued a directive that stated MINUSCA forces are requested “not to use schools for any purpose”. It also stated that abandoned schools that are occupied should be “liberated without delay to allow educational authorities to reopen them as soon as possible”.


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