6 Jan 2014

What does the new year hold for CAR?

Whilst we were all taking a break and generally shutting down the shop over Christmas and New Year… things went from an already drastic situation in the Central African Republic to levels of unspeakable violence.

The UN has now identified more than fifteen cases of children being murdered in the capital Bangui during December alone.


Around 1,000 people were killed in the city that month after fighting broke out on the 5 December.

In two of those cases of child-murders, the children had been decapitated.

The fear unleashed by the essentially sectarian violence of Christian and against Muslim militias appears to be worsening.

For instance NGOs now estimated that around 100,000 Christian civilians are camped out around Bangui’s airport because they think they will be safe from the Muslim Seleka militia due to the close proximity of French paratroopers encamped there too.

When I was last there in mid-December the credible figure was 35,000.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have had to drastically scale back their clinic in the tense and often chaotic camp there.

Read more: French rescue British woman in Central African Republic

This, after two days of recent shooting in the camp left 40 injured and two children dead. You know things are bad when MSF have to pull back.

But there are now up to 20 such encampments of terror around this small capital city alone.

Unicef says around 270,000 are displaced in Bangui – this is half the population of the capital. An extraordinary statistic.

Nationally – who really knows what slice of the 4.2m population has fled into the bush because of the men and children (yes, child soldiers are increasingly seen here) with the guns and the machetes?

Read more: CAR – a picture of abject innocence and abandonment

The ‘peacekeeping’ operation appears to have serious problems. The Chadian contingent of African peacekeeping troops known as Fomac has had eight men killed.

Right or wrong, the Muslim Chadians are increasingly seen by some as sympathetic to the Seleka militia.

More than 4,000 Chadian nationals have been airlifted home to safety from Bangui in recent weeks.

Many have spent their entire lives in the CAR but have deemed it time to go.

The French force remains in place but President François Hollande has given some indications that it may yet increase in size – a change in his previous insistence that December’s reinforcements would be the last.

Read more: Central African Republic – amidst ongoing terror, progress is relative

France is making noises about her EU partners helping on the ground. Britain continues to provide logistical military aid, most notably in flying in French troops and equipment to Bangui.

It is the nature of news that you so often report from a place in crisis only to move on as that crisis passes.

Sadly that is not the case in the CAR where the political and security situation is such that the prime minister is holed up at the airport, living alongside Africa peacekeepers – if he tried to get into town he says his life would be in danger. His private home and official residence have been trashed.

So, we hope to return to the CAR tomorrow if the plane goes as planned. For the crisis here has not passed, not in any sense.

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