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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Announce Breakthrough on Nuclear Deal

Deal resolves differences over liability of suppliers to India in event of a nuclear accident, U.S. demands on tracking whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

update Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid