Violence Returns to C.A.R., Humanitarian Crisis Worsens

06 May, 2017

Armed groups in the Central African Republic have killed at least 45 people and burned villages in the last few months.

Several years ago, a civil war in the C.A.R. left thousands of people dead and displaced hundreds of thousands more. Now, aid workers warn that the country may be returning to conflict.

Since September, more than 100,000 people have fled their homes.

The conflict is between the mainly Christian anti-balaka rebels, and the mostly Muslim former Séléka rebels.

Cows in C.A.R. are a cause of intercommunal conflict, especially between nomadic herders and pastoralists. (Photo: Zack Baddorf for VOA)
Cows in C.A.R. are a cause of intercommunal conflict, especially between nomadic herders and pastoralists. (Photo: Zack Baddorf for VOA)

In northern C.A.R., anti-balaka rebels used the village of Bambara as a base. However, the soldiers stole cows from nearby nomadic people. A militia of former Séléka rebels reacted by attacking the village. They killed about 25 people and burned more than 600 houses.

The militia killed the older brother of Alexi Finicule, a member of the village, and burned his house down.

"My father died of old age," Finicule said, "but when my big brother was killed, I was very shocked by that. I will always remember what happened here."

The former Séléka also shot and wounded Finicule. He fled to the nearby forest and hid.

Finicule later returned to Bambara and received supplies from the U.N.'s International Organization of Migration to rebuild his house. However, his family does not want to live in it because of the killing there.

In the hands of God

The new violence has been a major setback for aid workers.

According to I.O.M. operations assistant Fabrice Tiro, the villagers have no food nor seeds to grow some. They also lack clean water. "Everything was destroyed in these events. They are starting from zero."

Even the town's school was burned to the ground.

"We don't have anything," said village member Apaulinere Horouro.

At a displaced persons camp in nearby Ndim is a group of ethnic Puehl. They have been displaced twice due to fighting over the past few months.

Alazi Makouri is the village chief. "The future for us is truly in the hands of God," he said, "because the population of the nearby village are the ones protecting us. We don't have any say in the matter."

Makouri said the anti-balaka attacked his village not the former Séléka. The attackers also stole about 150 of their cows. After the attack, the villagers moved a short distance and started to regrow crops. But, they were attacked again. Finally, they went to the camp.

Homeless in their own home

More than 400,000 people are displaced in the Central African Republic about a fifth of the country's population.

The medical aid group Doctors without Borders said that civilians in the Central African Republic are being attacked in the country at levels not seen in years.

The group supports a hospital in Paoua in the northwest of the country. The project coordinator at the hospital said it is difficult for the organization to get distant rural areas in need.

"Central African [Republic] is one of the poorest countries in the world and needs to be supported but the people are focusing on the conflict," said Abdel Kader Tlidjane of MSF. "But it takes time for people to solve it. During this time we should be able to carry on with normal activities to give this access and it's not easy."

Currently, the biggest problem at the Paoua hospital is malaria. Medical workers are also seeing and treating war-wounds.

Since the crisis of 2013-2014, more than half of the population depends on humanitarian aid. However, officials say aid levels for the year for the Central African Republic are at only 10 percent what they should be. UN officials told VOA the "disastrous" lack of support hurts the chance of peace.

I'm Phil Dierking

­­­­­­­­­­­­This story was originally written for VOA News by Zack Baddorf. Phil Dierking adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

How do you think the Central African Republic can find peace? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

graze – v. to eat grass or other plants that are growing in a field, pasture, etc.

humanitarian – adj. a person who works to make other people's lives better

nomadic – adj. to move from place to place instead of living in one place all the time

scar – n. a mark that is left on your skin after a wound heals