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

    Leaving Scalia Replacement to 2017 Would Mean Unusually Long Vacancy

    History of high court shows Obama not in unique situation during final year of presidency

    US Fact Checkers Debunk Some Republican Candidate Claims 

    Slim evidence for several claims made by Republican presidential candidates at their last debate ahead of next Saturday's key nominating election in South Carolina

    Uganda Presidential Debate a Small Victory for Democracy

    In homes and bars across country, Ugandans were fixated on their screens as eight political candidates running for president took part in national debate

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.