[ Country-by-Country Reports ]


[Extracted from U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June 2009]

The Central African Republic (CAR) is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. The majority of victims are children trafficked within the country for sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced ambulant vending, and forced agricultural, mine, market, and restaurant labor. To a lesser extent, children are trafficked from the CAR to Cameroon, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for the same purposes listed above. Children may also be trafficked from Rwanda to the CAR. In addition, rebels conscript children into armed forces in the northwestern and northeastern regions of the country. Unable to survive as hunters and gatherers because of depleted forests, Pygmies are subjected to forced agricultural labor by Central African villagers. Authorities in the CAR have a limited awareness of trafficking, and none of the nation’s young, but developing, civil society organizations has an anti-trafficking focus. No comprehensive trafficking analysis has been conducted and little concrete data exists. A study released in 2008 by UNICEF and the Government of the CAR on violence linked to child labor, however, reveals that forced child labor is widespread. In addition, a 2005 UNICEF study on child sexual exploitation found over 40 sex trafficking cases in Bangui and four of the country’s provinces. UN reports in the last year indicate that self-defense militias, some of which are supported by the government, recruited child soldiers.

The Government of the Central African Republic does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so, despite extremely limited resources, internal conflict, and instability caused by unrest in neighboring Sudan, Chad, and the DRC. The government demonstrated its nascent commitment to combating trafficking through law enforcement means by securing the convictions of three men for trafficking a three-year-old girl. In collaboration with UNICEF, the government collected data on violence linked to child labor and released a study in 2008 indicating a significant incidence of forced child labor in the country. Despite these overall significant efforts, the government did not show evidence of progress in enacting its 2006 draft law against trafficking – which has yet to be presented to the National Assembly – or in protecting victims of trafficking; therefore, the CAR is placed on Tier 2 Watch List.

Recommendations for the CAR: Pass and enact the 2006 anti-trafficking law; develop procedures through which police and social workers may identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations -- such as females in prostitution, abandoned and street children, and Pygmies -- and train police and social workers to implement these procedures; end the practice of jailing children who are victims of sex trafficking; provide care to children in commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor, in collaboration with NGOs and the international community as appropriate; and increase overall efforts to educate the public about the dangers of trafficking.

The Government of the CAR demonstrated some increased law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking during the last year. Central African law does not prohibit all forms of trafficking in persons. A 2006 draft comprehensive anti-trafficking law awaits Cabinet approval before being sent to the National Assembly for vote. In January 2009, the government enacted Labor Code Articles seven and eight which prohibit forced labor and bonded labor, prescribing a sufficiently stringent penalty of five to 10 years’ imprisonment. The Central African Penal Code criminalizes the procurement of individuals less than 15 years old for prostitution, prescribing penalties of one to five years’ imprisonment and/or a fine. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for rape, although a fine alone would not be. In 2008, using kidnapping laws, the government convicted a Nigerian man to two years’ imprisonment for attempting to sell a three-year old Guinean girl in 2007. The perpetrator’s two accomplices were sentenced to one year and six months’ imprisonment respectively. Due to budget limitations, the government does not provide specialized anti-trafficking training to government officials on how to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases. Labor inspectors and other law enforcement officials report that they lack the resources to address trafficking crimes.

The Central African government continued weak efforts to protect trafficking victims over the last year. Government officials continued to travel with UNICEF into the interior of the country to identify, rescue, and demobilize child soldiers conscripted by rebels. Due to a paucity of resources, the government does not operate a trafficking victim shelter. The government refers destitute children older than four to local NGOs for care; some of these children could be trafficking victims. Otherwise, the government did not report referring any trafficking victims to NGOs for care. Two NGOs reported that the Ministry of Social Affairs sometimes provided training on general youth issues, but could not confirm that this included trafficking. In December 2008, the Minister of Defense assisted UNICEF’s efforts to release children from a self-defense militia conscripting child soldiers. The Ministry put UNICEF in contact with the militia leader, who agreed to cooperate with UNICEF to release children. The Central African government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they face hardship or retribution. The government does not implement formal procedures to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations such as abandoned children, street children, or females in prostitution. In some cases, police jail children found in prostitution for up to a month and then released them, rather than providing them with rehabilitation and reintegration care. The government does not encourage victims to assist in trafficking investigations or prosecutions.

The Government of the CAR continued modest efforts to prevent trafficking during the reporting period. The government released the results of a joint government-UNICEF study on violence associated with child labor in the CAR. The Ministry of Statistics assisted in analyzing the data collected. The government established an Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Child Exploitation during the last year. In June 2008, as part of its African Children’s Day celebration, the government conducted awareness-raising activities about trafficking through television and radio broadcasts. In October 2008, the CAR government participated in a three-day seminar hosted by with the Central African Human Rights Observatory and a foreign donor entitled “Raising Awareness of the New Forms of Slavery in the CAR.” The event produced the “Bangui Declaration” of recommendations to the government and other stakeholders for the eradicating of trafficking in the country. The government lacked funding to implement a national action plan to prevent child sexual abuse, including trafficking, that it had adopted in 2006. A second anti-trafficking action plan adopted in 2007 also remains unimplemented. The government did not take any measures to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.