News / Africa

As CAR Spirals into Chaos, Tales of Terror Multiply

  • The bishop of Bossangoa fears a growing sectarian divide following gross human rights violations on civilians, Nov. 10, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • A girl stares out the window at Bossangoa chuch's Sunday prayers. Over 36,000 people are living at the site. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • Regional peacekeepers at an abandoned village on the road south of Bossangoa, Nov. 13, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • A regional peacekeeper surveys an abandoned village on the road south from bossangoa, surrounded by untouched fallen fruit, Nov. 13, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • A ragged child cries out for food at Bossangoa's packed Catholic mission, where over 36,000 people have sought refuge from violence, Nov. 10, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • A malnourished child being fed at a clinic in Bossangoa, Nov. 9, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • Khadija Umani was on a truck attacked by self-defence groups, who separated Muslims from Christians and executed 7 men. She and around 2000 other Muslims are seeking safety in a school, Nov. 11, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • A girl waits at Bossangoa hospital, where medics are treating a high number of children for malaria, malnutrition, anaemia and violence-related injuries inlcuding gunshot wounds, Nov. 9, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
  • A family squatting at Bossangoa hospital, where over 1000 people have sought refuge from widespread killing, rape and extortion by de facto state forces, Nov. 9, 2013. (Hanna McNeish for VOA)
PHOTOS: Although Central African Republic is no stranger to violent power grabs, the March 2013 coup led by an alliance of rebels, foreign mercenaries and criminals has led to widespread human rights abuses.
Hannah McNeish
In October, Dofio Rodriguez fled the town of Bossangoa, roughly 300 kilometers northwest of the capital, Bangui, after seeing his country's new security forces — a loose band of ex-rebels who go by the name "Seleka”, or alliance — slit his brother's throat at the local police station, then throw his body into a river.
 
He says they shot dead another three family members on the road south near Benzambe, prompting him to seek safety in the village of Bopilette, some 25 kilometers outside of town.
 
Then in early November, Rodriguez says a group of armed men arrived late one night, crept into the bushes and re-emerged the following morning to fire indiscriminately at villagers. He says he tried to stay behind to bury what he claims were 30 dead — including five children under the age of five — but instead fled to a Catholic Mission in Bossangoa where more 36,000 people squat in cramped, unsanitary conditions, too afraid to move on for fear of death.
 
Although Central African Republic is no stranger to violent power grabs, the March 2013 coup led by an alliance of rebels, foreign mercenaries and criminals has led to widespread human rights abuses that have in turn rekindled the efforts of local self-defense groups.
 
With a total absence of state institutions beyond the so-called security forces that enjoy utter impunity, hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, and the local defense groups that used to patrol highways are also out for blood.
 
“Since they took the town of Bossangoa, the Seleka have terrorized us,” says Rodriguez, explaining that they have not only killed many people, pursue, intimidate and rob those who attempt to flee.
 
Around Bossangoa, people say the police station has been transformed into a dark detention center, where people are tortured for ransom or dragged off and never seen again.
 
Teacher Laurent Namneonde says the police station is where his two sons were tortured after being accused at a Muslim market of being anti-balaka or “anti-machete,” a term for vigilantes which have risen to fight Seleka.
 
When he tried to intervene, he says, he was locked in a cell and forced to listen to their screams. Namneonde had to be taken to a hospital for distress, and one son bled so profusely from his nose and ears that he was taken to the capital for treatment where he is still recovering.
 
"Their police were dispersed when the Seleka came to replace them, and now they make their own laws and use any torture tactic they want and there is no one to stop them and protect the people."
 
Bossangoa Colonel Abdullai Mahamet flatly denies these stories of horror taking place, insisting that he is in control of his men and that no one is being detained at the police station.
 
Anyone who is claiming Seleka abused them, he says, is anti-balaka.
 
Outsiders
 
Bossangoa locals say the majority of men committing the abuses aren't from CAR, as they speak only Arabic. Nearly all are Muslim, they say, and were recruited to help the country's first Muslim president Michel Djotodia seize power.
 
But President Djotodia himself has admitted that he does not have control over much of the country, and recently sent envoys to neighboring countries in search of international assistance.
 
In the meantime, David Brown, U.S. representatives to the CAR, told VOA that more than 1,000 women have been raped and countless others killed.
 
Aid agencies estimate more than 400,000 people have been displaced by violence perpetrated either by Seleka or the equally vicious attacks by self-defense groups — some of whom are armed with poisoned arrows, daggers or machetes but blended among those in military uniform with guns to target the wider Muslim population.
 
Khadija Umani described one such attack she witnessed on a bus heading south to the capital.
 
"Muslim men were taken off the bus and had their throats cut," she says via translator, adding that she saw a total of seven people killed by vigilantes.
 
The killers threw her into the bush where she stayed for four days, until the Seleka came and took her back to Bossangoa.
 
General Babucar Gaye, head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission BINUCA in Bangui, says the political crisis sparked by Seleka's power grab has transformed into a deeper, more troubling humanitarian and human rights catastrophe.
 
“It's translated into mass human rights violations," he says. "The first human rights violation is the fact that this party [whose] forces are named Seleka — although they have been formally disbanded so we have to call them "ex-Seleka" — are living off the population because they are not properly sustained by the ruling government.”
 
In a climate of what he calls “total lawlessness,” he doesn't see an end to abuses.
 
The African Union will lead a 3,500-strong peacekeeping force in December to try to restore order.
 
The United Nations is currently mulling activation of an international force to replace regional peacekeepers outmanned and outgunned by heavily armed ex-rebels.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs