BANGUI AND WASHINGTON — As battles continued Wednesday between Christian and Muslim militia groups in the Central African Republic's war-torn capital, Bangui, images emerged of a city awash in desperation and fear.
In videotaped interviews obtained by VOA over the past few days, Bangui residents spoke of displacement, hardship and systematic rape.
"We don’t like it. We've been displaced for two weeks now," said one unidentified woman. "There is nothing for us. They know we are in the midsts of bandits. We asked them to bring in [humanitarian aid], but they refused. We haven’t seen anything," she said.
Tens of thousands of Christians have taken refuge at the Bangui airport, which is controlled by French troops, since sectarian bloodletting erupted early this month in the former French colony.
"Yes, the Seleka are coming to [the Bangui district of] Boy Rabe and raping women, that’s why we [moved] here, and we’re asking for help because we have nothing here [in displacement]," an unidentified man told VOA.
A solider from the 3,700-strong African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic, known as MISCA, said the group is working to improve security.
"If something happens, we will act. We need peace in Bangui. We don’t want any more shooting here. That’s all," he said.
In the video, MISCA soldiers can be seen detaining suspects. Later, French troops work together with a MISCA contingent to search civilians at a roadblock near the airport.
The conflict ripping the country apart began when the mostly Muslim rebel forces known as Seleka, or Alliance, overthrew the government in March, ousting President Francois Bozize.
A new interim government lost control of the rebels, who went on a countrywide spree of looting and killing, prompting Christians to form vigilante groups in response.
Violent acts against civilians and private property committed by both sides - including killings, rape and pillaging - escalated earlier this month when Christian fighters attempted to seize control of Bangui.
"We've been here [at the airport] for two weeks," a woman told VOA. It's long enough, she said.
Fall reported from Bangui and Snowiss from Washington.