Many respondents included “absence of violence” (26%) and “freedom from fear” (47%) in their definition of peace. This finding suggests that increasing security and restoring a sense of safety must be part of any peace-building effort. Respondents continue to report insecurity and a lack a safety or protection. They were asked to rank their perceived physical safety in a range of daily situations, from “very good” to “very bad.” The highest percentages of respondents reporting “bad” or “very bad” safety in the proposed situations were found in Ouham and Ouham Pende. In Ouham Pende, up to 46 percent reported a bad or very bad sense of safety walking at night in their village. High percentages of bad or very bad reported safety in the proposed situations were also found in the capital city, Bangui. The situations in which respondents most frequently reported a “poor” or “very poor” sense of safety include walking at night in the city/village, meeting strangers, and going to the nearest village or town.
When asked who provides them with security, 54 percent of respondents reported “God”. Respondents were allowed more than one answer, and 15 percent mentioned themselves. Half respondents (46%) only mentioned God, themselves, or nobody as providing security. Clearly the security sector has failed to provide protection. Less than half (45%) mentioned government forces including the government itself (21%), the Presidential/Republican Guard (Guarde Presidentielle / Republicaines - GP/GR; 13%), the Central African Armed Forces (Forces Armées Centrafricaines – FACA; 15%), and the Police/Gendarmes (3%).
Respondent perception of the lack of security is reinforced by their frequent exposure to violent events. The following figure illustrates respondents’ exposure to a list of 24 traumatic events. Among respondents, 76 percent reported witnessing at least one violent event committed by armed groups: 64 percent had witnessed pillaging, 59 percent had witnessed combat, 54 percent had witnessed beatings, 35 percent had witnessed killing, and 21 percent had witnessed sexual violence.
A large number of respondents reported direct experience related to the conflict, including displacement (79%) and forced separation from household members (56%). Fewer had direct experience of violence, including being physically attacked, beaten, or tortured (20%), being held prisoner by armed groups (11%), or being abducted (10%). Respondents also reported coercion by armed groups: 14 percent reported they were forced to work, 5 percent reported they were forced to participate in pillaging, and 2 percent reported they had been forced to beat someone. All the events were more frequently reported in the northern prefectures of Ouham and Ouham Pende.
Among all respondents, 4% reported having experienced sexual violations committed by armed groups, and the same percentage (4%) reported sexual violence by individuals other than armed groups. Reports of sexual violence by armed groups was significantly higher among women (6%) compared to men (1%). Sexual violence was especially prevalent in Ouham Pende, where 14 percent of the women reported having experienced it. Beyond the physical and direct violence, two-thirds of respondents (65%) reported thinking they would die at some point during the conflict.
Incidence data further show the ongoing nature of the violence, especially in the prefectures of Ouham and Ouham Pende. In those prefectures, over 10 percent of the respondents reported having witnessed pillaging and beating, having been forced to flee their home or village, having property stolen or destroyed, and being threatened with death over the last 12 months. These data show that civilians in CAR, as in other places affected by mass violence, have paid a high toll during the successive conflicts. This survey documents for the first time the extent of the violence.
In addition to exposure to conflict related violence, the survey asked respondents about their experience of domestic violence. Fourteen percent of respondents reported they had already been seriously physically beaten by someone from their household. However, the results show great gender disparity: 22 percent of the women reported serious physical beating by a household member compared to 4% of the men.
Among women, the main reason reported for the beatings were disobeying (42%), arguing (30%), jealousy (12%), serving diner late (8%), and alcohol (8%).
Respondents were further asked under what circumstances a serious physical beating of a household member would be acceptable. Over half respondents (58%) found no circumstances would justify such beating. One-third of respondents said it would be acceptable to beat a household member who disobeyed (33%), and those who argue, insult (17%). Only a minority said a beating would be acceptable for cheating (4%), serving diner late (1%), or burning the food (<1%). As many as 39 percent of respondents said they themselves had severely beaten a household member in such conditions. It is important to note that this includes spousal abuse and the beating of children. This may explain why 44 percent of the women had been involved in seriously beating physically a household member.