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.

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid