Can $2.2 billion buy peace and prosperity in Central African Republic?
Back to scarcity A family from Boeing pack up their belongings
Before IDPs left M’Poko, NGOs said they wanted to see significant investment in the neighbourhoods of return. The population of PK5, for example, had already grown significantly during the crisis with the arrival of displaced Muslims from elsewhere.
With new communities now returning in a context of material scarcity – there are huge gaps in water provision, waste treatment, healthcare, and education – some say conditions for conflict are already present.
“The government [is] making sure people leave the site but [it has] no strategy for what happens next,” says one NGO worker, who asks not to be named but has been involved in months of negotiations with the government over M’Poko. “If there is no increase in social services, it could create tensions within the population.”
How many IDPs actually return to the third district given this situation remains to be seen. According to Sahdia Khan, emergency coordinator at the International Organization for Migration, experience suggests many will go elsewhere.
“A lot of people had left [M’Poko] before, but they return to areas that are safe,” she says.
The number of IDPs returning on this occasion is far larger, with 15 of 30 other IDP camps in the capital also having closed. Even if many pick other sites in Bangui, Khan accepts “this is a new situation”.
Nothing is constant Melanie Ouagram stands outside her destroyed home in Fondo
To help IDPs leave M’Poko, the government has given individuals and families between 80 and 160 euros. But administrative problems, including officials writing names down incorrectly, had prevented dozens of IDPs interviewed by IRIN from receiving anything.
Those that did get their money also say it is too little. Guinot’s neighbour, 48-year-old Melanie Ouagram, returned to Fondo on 26 January with 80 euros in her pocket. A week later, she has nothing. The money has all gone on paying off debts and buying bricks and food.
With no husband to help bring in money – he was shot and killed by ex-Séléka fighters on 5 December – Ouagram can only afford school fees for two of her six children.
“If someone gives you only this money, it means you have been abandoned,” she says.
Help is on hand from some NGOs. To date, ACTED has helped reconstruct 1,300 homes through a system that allows IDPs to buy materials worth around $200 and build for themselves.
“The objective of the project is to give IDPs autonomy so that when they come back, their house hasn’t been built by an NGO,” says Hericher, while taking IRIN on a tour of Boeing, a neighbourhood just outside the third district.
“We give them [training], tools, and explain how the house is built, so that when we leave they will be able to continue building.”
But Bangui remains a fragile place, Hericher admits. In 2015, ACTED helped reconstruct almost 900 houses for displaced people. When violence erupted again that September following the murder of a 17-year-old Muslim taxi driver, all 900 were destroyed.
“It’s a good reminder,” underlines Hericher, pointing towards an entire neighbourhood of gutted buildings in the distance. “Everything can change from one day to the next”.