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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid