News / Africa

Aid Agencies Face Moral Dilemma in CAR

A gendarme checks a car at a checkpoint in the PK4 district of Bangui, Feb. 27, 2014.
A gendarme checks a car at a checkpoint in the PK4 district of Bangui, Feb. 27, 2014.
Nick Long
Aid agencies in the Central African Republic are facing a moral dilemma - should they evacuate endangered Muslims to safer areas, or encourage them to stay put?  If they get involved in evacuations, they risk being accused of complicity with ethnic or religious "cleansing."  But the alternative might be letting civilians fall victim to large-scale massacres.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said Wednesday that “more than 15,000 people in 18 locations are surrounded by armed groups across the west of the Central African Republic… and at high risk of attack." It added that most of these people are Muslim.

A spokesman said the agency is particularly worried about the so-called PK12 neighborhood in Bangui and the towns of Boda, Bouar and Bossangoa.

Muslims trapped in PK12

About 3,200 Muslims are trapped in the kilometer-long district of PK12, surrounded by a hostile militia, the anti-Balaka, which has been firing grenades at them and killing people who try to leave the area.

Zannah Bassar, a grandmother, who is one of the beleaguered residents of PK12, told VOA she was born in this district, but the anti-Balaka are all around.  She said her home has been wrecked, she’s been sleeping in a gutter for the past month and she wants to go somewhere else.

Half a dozen other Muslims interviewed by VOA in the same district all said they wanted to leave, either to go north into Chad or elsewhere within the CAR.

FILE - U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos.FILE - U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos.
x
FILE - U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos.
FILE - U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos.
The U.N.’s senior humanitarian official, Valerie Amos, canvassed people’s views about relocation during her visit last week to Bossangoa, where some 1,200 Muslims have been living in and around a school for the past five months.

The town’s imam said if they don’t leave they risk being cut into little pieces.

A women’s group leader, Kadjidja Hassan, also addressed the humanitarian chief.

"The Muslims in Bossangoa don’t want to go to Chad, she said, because they are Central Africans, but they are suffering," she said. "A Muslim cannot go more than a kilometer from the site, she says.  They are all packed in there and their husbands can’t do anything, so how can they live in Bossangoa?"

Chadian evacuation

In the past two months Chad’s government has been organizing large convoys, escorted by the Chadian army, to evacuate its citizens from CAR, but on February 20 Chad announced it was stopping these operations.

The announcement came after a day after a convoy left PK12 and was stopped by the anti-Balaka north of Bangui.  The 21 men on board were all killed.

Peter Neussl, a U.N. humanitarian officer, says aid agencies are now considering organizing safer evacuation convoys, to places where people will be less at risk.

Up to now aid agencies have not been involved in evacuating people in the CAR, except some non-CAR citizens who have been flown out at the request of their governments, and some refugees who have been repatriated.  Moving populations within the country is controversial.

Dilemma

Boubacar Gaye, the head of the U.N. political mission in the CAR, says security for civilians is the top priority - but adds the mission is against separation of the Muslim and non-Muslim populations.

"For the time being what is really at stake is the composition of this society, that was a multi- confessional one.  It is very dangerous for the future of this country to have the Muslims in one part of this country, a kind of de facto partition.  This is something that we should try to do our very best to avoid," he said.
 
The head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the CAR, Barbara Shenstone, says aid agencies are in a good position to help organize future evacuations - and she suggests they may well be necessary.

"I think the best approach is to encourage reconciliation where this is possible.  That being said, these people do need to be protected, they are fearing that they’re going to be massacred, and there is good evidence to suggest that if they’re not protected they might be massacred," she said.

Rights groups have called on the U.N., France, and African Union to deploy more peacekeepers to the CAR, to stabilize the country before situation grows any worse.

Images from Bangui

  • An African peacekeeping soldier stands guard as Red Cross workers move bodies from a mass grave at a military camp in Bangui, Feb. 17, 2014.
  • Peoples gather cassavas near the river Oubangui, a natural border between Central Africa Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, in Bangui, Feb. 16, 2014.
  • African peace keeping soldiers check confiscated traditional weapons during a patrol in the pro-Christian area of Bangui, Feb. 15, 2014.
  • A man tries to prevent a photographer from taking pictures as angry young men argue with French soldiers in patrol in the pro-Christian area of Bangui, Feb. 15, 2014.
  • A street vendor stands near French soldiers in patrol in the pro-Christian area of Bangui, Feb. 15, 2014.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs