Humanitarian groups say the situation in the Central African Republic is worsening daily, with the violence in some areas reaching unprecedented levels. France says it is sending additional troops to help restore order in the country. The main victims of the fighting between the largely Muslim former rebels and militia groups set up to protect Christian communities.
The northern town of Bouca is deserted following an attack last month by an alliance of rebel forces called Seleka. An estimated 400,000 people in the Central African Republic have been displaced by violence. Sylvain Groulx of the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders says its workers cannot reach all the people who fled their homes and are now living in dire conditions.
"These people flee to their fields which are in a radius of their villages from one to thirty kilometers, so it's a very difficult situation for them," he said. "They are living out there without their houses, so they are not covered, they are not protected from he rain, from the mosquitoes, they don't have access to safe-drinking water or their normal food support. It's extremely difficult and we have a problem, as we cannot have a direct access to this population and therefore we don't know exactly what is happening to them, how are they dying out there."
Christian Mukosa, a researcher for Amnesty International, says the situation is even worse for those not lucky enough to escape their attackers.
"Women are raped, children are killed, children are recruited as soldiers, but also we are seeing killings of - a lot, a lot of killings of the populations not only in the remote areas, but also in the capital Bangui. And the situation is really of great concern because the current authorities don't have the control of the country," he said.
Mukosa has warned that violence could spill over into neighboring countries and is urging the international community to act before it is too late.
France, which currently has 400 soldiers stationed in the CAR, said Tuesday it would send about 1,000 additional troops to its former colony to help restore order after the United Nations warned that the country was descending into "complete chaos."
A resident of the capital Bangui says people there want more French troops.
"If the West says we are in a pre-genocidal situation, according to me, it has already happened, and it is very important that France helps us out of this situation," he said. "Given that the former rebels are not controlled, I know that if the French arrive, the rebels will see that they have a superior force and then we can have peace and people can move freely."
France is proposing a U.N. resolution that would strengthen an African stabilization force of 2,500 troops which is already in the CAR but has been hampered by a lack of funding. That force should increase to about 3,600 when it is taken over by the African Union in December.
The Central African Republic has been dogged by instability since gaining independence from France more than 50 years ago.