News / Africa

Repairs Begin in CAR After Year of Massive Looting

Vehicles that have been stripped for parts during looting at the China International Fund depot in Bangui, March 4, 2014. (Nick Long/VOA)
Vehicles that have been stripped for parts during looting at the China International Fund depot in Bangui, March 4, 2014. (Nick Long/VOA)
Nick Long
The rebellion in the Central African Republic last year turned into the worst looting spree the country has ever seen. The Seleka rebels and criminal gangs pillaged businesses, homes, government offices, religious missions, health centers and public utilities.

The CAR's national union of business leaders recently submitted a list of companies that suffered looting and vandalism after March 24 of last year, the day the Seleka rebel alliance seized power in Bangui.

The list of 23 companies includes most of the important businesses in the country.

While the scale of their losses has yet to be calculated, visiting just a few sites around Bangui gives an indication of how damaging the recent upheavals have been.

Road construction firm looted

VOA visited the main depot of the country's biggest road construction firm, the China International Fund.  One of the managers, Cyriaque Motoumba, says looters took vast amounts of building materials and equipment.

He says they emptied the containers of cement and also they took the steel reinforcement bars that the Chinese had stocked in eight of the containers, so now there is nothing.

Motoumba says 400 tons of steel bars were loaded onto trucks by the Seleka and driven away - to Chad, he believes, because that is where many Seleka mercenaries came from.

Several vehicles were stolen, he says, and it's clear some of the other vehicles were taken apart.  He shows the inside of a tractor engine.

"There’s no battery, and they took out the fuel injector, the starter and even the driver’s seat," he said.

Why didn’t they drive the tractors away? 

"Chinese vehicles like these are too noticeable," he said.  "People would see them and would see who was driving them."

He estimates the company took losses of about $14 million from the looting.

Health structures also targeted

Some figures have been collected for damage to health structures.  The United Nations says that out of 117 health structures assessed to date, fully 50 percent were looted and 42 percent damaged. 

The head of a health center in Bangui's Petevo district, Ouba Mossoro, showed VOA around the premises.

"Well, as you see, there’s nothing left - the medicines were stolen, everything was looted including a sum of money," he said.

The medical charity Alima, with help from the U.N. Children’s Fund, has started rejuvenating another health center in Bangui, installing a generator, repairing a water tank, and providing equipment, salaries and training.

Pierre Kojan, a doctor working for Alima at the center, tolds VOA he doesn’t attribute the degradation at this health center to looting.

"It was a progressive decline, owing to lack of maintenance, with the result that the maternity ward had no instruments, no water and in fact nothing of what was needed for babies to be delivered safely," he said.

UNICEF has also helped to restore clean water supplies in a number of CAR cities, including Bangui, where it is installing a new pump in the Oubangui River.

"The company had enormous damage in some of the towns where it provides water - notably at Bambari, where its headquarters was looted and its factory was pillaged, and also at Bossangoa, Bouar and Bozoum," said the national water company’s technical director, Pierre Edouard Lebaramo.

Seleka involvement

VOA asked a Seleka commander who is still in Bangui, Mahamat Dhaffane, how the looting could have been allowed to happen.

"Seleka was rightly accused of being the devil," he said.  "There was looting, there were human rights violations, unacceptable abuses.  But, what people have seen with the anti-balaka militias has been even worse."

It is true that Muslims’ houses, businesses and mosques have been systematically destroyed since December.

But how did the Seleka fail to prevent the onset of looting on a massive scale?

Cyriaque Motoumba believes it was because many of the mercenaries they used had overthrown a CAR government once before, in 2003, when they were fighting for ex-President Bozize, and he had failed to reward them as they had hoped.

This time around, Motoumba says, the mercenaries didn't wait to get paid.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs