8 Dec 2013

Fleeing terror, Bangui’s displaced seek refuge in an airfield

Pre News refresh player – this is the default player for the C4 news site – please do not delete. Ziad

It is barely 1,000 metres from the main terminal building, but a sight that renders you speechless.

Perhaps a dozen light aircraft in a hangar and on the airport apron. Then the hole that’s been cut in the fence and the foot-flattened grass around it.

And then the noise hits. Not of aircraft but human chatter, shouting, laughing, screaming, vomiting, coughing, defecating…

People, everywhere. Under, in, on planes. Wings draped with rags, towels, clothing, hundreds, thousands of people.

We ask if we may film. They are only too happy to have it shown, tell the wider world, perhaps something may change.

The jarring of rich men’s machines with people living in utter destitution; the 20th century technology of flying alongside 21st century people who should make planes seem comfortably last century, but who are instead living in almost stone age conditions.

Cooking over fires, zero sanitation. Water scarce and food scarcer still.

Pre News refresh player – this is the default player for the C4 news site – please do not delete. Ziad

And all because of the terror here in the Central African Republic. The terror of the daggers, the machetes, the guns.

The terror of the Seleka militia “qui vont porte a porte pendant la nuit” – who go door to door during the night, selecting Christians for the killing.

Only here do they feel safe, with the French paratroopers a few metres across the razor wire, yet in a different universe.

“We have everything – malaria, gunshot wounds – all the things people had before the current violence and all the things that has now caused,” explains an exhausted-looking young German medic outside the Medecins Sans Frontieres tented clinic here.

Yet, the French commander here has vowed to disarm the source of their terror and wipe the Seleka off the streets. French military helicopters have been passing low over the city tonight, unlit, to show perhaps some of their coming muscle.

It could bring an end to the airport fields of the terrified – but it might simply displace and possibly prolong the killings.

Watch all of the Channel 4 News reports from the Central African Republic here

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