Central African Republic: “Don't Forget About Us!”

The Central African conflict between the Central African government and Seleka rebels has worsened alarmingly since December 2012. After months of conflict, Seleka rebels announced the taking of the presidential palace on March 24, 2013. President François Bozizé is taking refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Michel Djotodia, head of the rebellion, has named himself president of the Central African Republic. Several attempts by rebels to integrate have failed and the Seleka has been officially disbanded. Nevertheless, the ex-rebels continue to act ruthlessly in the region, looting and pillaging any town they pass through with impunity.

Humanitarian crisis

The humanitarian situation is catastrophic in certain towns, especially in the interior. The abuses of power committed by the rebels are making people angry. Camille Mandaba [fr], a resident of Bangui, described a rebel operation which was “presented as a disarmament operation”:

Ils m'ont mis à genoux, menacé de leur arme avant de piller mon domicile. L'argent, les matelas, la télévision, les vivres, les téléphones, le réfrigérateur, tout a été emporté.

They put me on my knees, threatened me with their weapon before looting my house. The silver, the mattresses, the television, the food, the telephones, the refrigerator, everything was taken.

The Right Reverend Nongo-Aziagbia [fr], Bishop of the town Bossangoa, also witnessed crimes by the ex-rebels who sometimes claimed to be representing the forces of law and order:

“La dignité humaine a été complètement bafouée. De part et d’autre, les exactions qui sont commises sont vraiment effroyables.”

Human dignity has been completely disregarded. On both sides, the abuses of power committed have been really dreadful.
Rebelles en République centrafricaine via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

Rebels in the CAR via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

In the countryside, the abuses were even crueller. An image taken by United States satellite showed the destruction of entire villages:

Central African Republic @ONU_RCA The American satellite could only film burned villages of Bossangoa. Nothing about the LRA. [Lord's Resistance Army] pic.twitter.com/htIYOYdBuD— ewalifete (@frugalisorg) September 24, 2013

A report from Human Rights Watch [fr] revealed more than 1,000 houses destroyed in at least 34 villages as well as summary executions:

Les premiers ont quitté leurs maisons, cinq d'entre eux, et ont été regroupés sous un arbre … ils étaient attachés ensemble par les bras. Ils ont ensuite été tués par balle l'un après l'autre.

The first people left their houses, five of them, and were gathered together under a tree … they were tied together by the arms. Next they were shot dead one by one.

The conflict spared no-one. Even children were recruited in the armed groups, as shown in this photo of a child soldier:

Central Africa: Dreadful situation in the country, the Seleka rebels are out … [of control] – http://t.co/4XS1S5LVSQ pic.twitter.com/Il1y3Mzs9o— Thierry Barbaut (@TBarbaut) June 28, 2013

Systematic Looting and Destruction

Several observers have suggested the conflict is becoming a battle between Christians and Muslims. The tension between the Christian civilians and the rebels, for the most part Muslim, has certainly been increased, but other observers believe that the conflict is more economic than religious in nature. Thierry Vircoulon, Central African specialist with the International Crisis Group (ICG) stated that:

la Séléka ne sont pas venus convertir les Centrafricains, ils sont venus les voler. Cela n'a rien à voir avec ce qui s'est passé au Mali.

The Seleka have not come to convert the Central Africans, they have come to steal from them. This has nothing in common with what has happened in Mali.

An unnamed resident [fr] shared this point of view:

Les patrons militaires de la rébellion n'ont jamais eu l'ambition de reconstruire le pays. Ils savent qu'ils n'ont pas vocation à durer alors ils considèrent Bangui comme un butin

The military chiefs of the rebellion have never wanted to rebuild the country. They know that their mission will not last but they consider Bangui as their spoils.

Beatrice Epaye [fr], ex-Member of Parliament, and now a Member of the National Transition Council, despaired of the catastrophic situation in the country:

Nous sommes les oubliés de l’Afrique, même ce conflit a été oublié. Mon appel c’est qu’on ne nous oublie pas. Il ne faut qu’on nous laisse nous entretuer et on en est déjà arrivés là.

We are the forgotten people of Africa, even this conflict has been forgotten. My appeal is for people not to forget us. We must not be allowed to kill one another and this has already happened here.


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