No easy answers in Central African Republic
December 9th, 2013
02:32 PM ET

No easy answers in Central African Republic

By Susanna Flood, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Susanna Flood is Amnesty International’s director of media. The views expressed are her own.

What do you say to a grieving widow whose two sons have just been killed and who has 15 grandchildren at home to look after?  How do you respond when the children with whom you have just been laughing and joking – who fled with their families to a rapidly growing camp for displaced people – tell you they are hungry and haven’t eaten for two days?  How should you feel when you watch a seething mass of humanity taking refuge in desperate conditions because they feel safer there than in their homes?  What should you say when a chill goes through you as you hear people, time and time again, blame the Muslims or the Christians for their plight?

There are no easy answers to these questions but this is the reality in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic today. Conditions are desperate. And people are very afraid.

Four days after an armed group launched a flash attack on Bangui, more than 60,000 people have taken refuge in various locations around the city. Many have fled to churches; similar reports are being received from mosques – though on a smaller scale. But the largest number has taken refuge around the airport, which is known to be secure because of the presence of French forces.

These people are fleeing their homes out of fear. Reports are still being received of armed groups threatening, killing and pillaging different residential areas. Neighbors who say they once lived peacefully together are now in fear of each other, virtually at war, casting aspersions on others only on the basis of their religion.

They could easily go home. They have not come far. But this is unlikely to happen until they feel a real sense of security. In the meantime, reports are being received of women giving birth in camps in the open air with no medical aid while sick children are also suffering.

Médecins sans Frontières – and other NGOs – are doing an amazing job, providing treatment in the hospitals and in the camps. But this long-running crisis has escalated so dramatically since the outbreak of violence overnight on December 4-5 that no one is equipped to handle what is happening right now.

The arrival of new French troops has given a small sense of protection, even more so now that they can be seen patrolling on foot. The Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC) forces, too, provide much-needed protection, but there is widespread mistrust for their Chadian contingent, perceived as sympathetic to some abusive ex-Seleka forces.

Everyone in this small city has either lost a relative or knows someone who has died in these few short days of violence. And this mirrors what has already happened across the entire country where entire villages have been wiped out.

While re-establishing law and order across the city is the most urgent priority, this is not enough to address the much-deeper roots of this crisis. Justice must be delivered to the people of the Central African Republic if it is ever to heal itself and people are to live in peace with each other again.

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Topics: Africa • France

soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. rightospeak

    I think that CNN and other organizations need to ask the basic question : WHY IS THERE VIOLENCE IN THE CONGO ? All this b s about this group and that group is making you look stupid. Send some of your best and brightest to Africa and see if they can figure out the causes and allow them to write the truth-maybe you will be able to get your credibility back.

    December 9, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  2. Chukwuemeka

    Fareed, caches of arms from Libya is being used in the fight in CAR. President Bozize was wrongly removed with the assistance of a band of mercenaries from Chad who came as Muslim liberators. Now, this has opened a new front for conflict in the Congo with widespread consequences. If it moves towards the east of Africa rest assured that the mercenaries would link up with alshabab in Somalia. So the Africa Union needs to be up and doing so as to nip this problem in the bud before it engulf a wider region.

    December 9, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Reply
    • rightospeak

      Interesting. Mr. Z take notes.

      December 9, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Reply
  3. John

    There is a very easy answer... tell the Truth... stop calling them Militants + Rebels.... they are Sunni Jihadists.... financed by Saudis and Gulf States.... see Redacted 28 Pages of the Joint Intelligence Comittee's report of 9/11 issued in late 2002.... had we bombed Syria btw... we would have handed a nation of minorities over to al Qaeda.... and John McCain broke US Laws by providing material support + political support to Al Qaeda affiliates

    December 9, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      In fact John, John McCain needs to be thrown in jail just for disgracing this country by representing it abroad!

      December 10, 2013 at 10:36 am | Reply
  4. Just

    Just send a bunch of those "Ted Cruz Coloring Books" to the CAR. They'd laugh themselves silly!!!

    December 9, 2013 at 7:45 pm | Reply
  5. Arnold

    Muslim Terrorists!

    December 10, 2013 at 12:01 am | Reply
  6. j. von hettlingen

    The atrocities committed by the Seleka are the roots of social evils in CAR. The relationship between Muslims and Christians is broken. If Seleka leave town, maybe the relationship can be restored. Many have expressed hope that French troops, and an expanded African force, could end the current instability. It's unclear whether the success like the one in Mali at the beginning of this year, would repeat itself, No one expects a rapid advance. It will be a much tougher, messier task to search for longer-term solutions.

    December 10, 2013 at 8:11 am | Reply
  7. Joseph McCarthy

    As far as we Americans are concerned, the only easy answer for us is to simply stay out of this conflict where we have no business! In fact, these interventionist policies concocted by the right-wing fanatics in Washington sorely need to be terminated as they do far more harm than any good!

    December 10, 2013 at 10:34 am | Reply
  8. Judge Jean Boyd of Texas

    I have an easy answer to this one. Let's just send in the Marines as usual and fight the dickens out of all who don't want us there just like we're doing in Afghanistan!!!!!!!

    December 12, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Reply

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