Makeshift camps offer people the only hope amidst horrific violence in the Central African Republic. Food has finally arrived for the refugees, who fled their homes almost four weeks ago. Bangui International Airport is where many people have sought solace and hope to find a way out of the stricken nation.
Children wander around appearing lost, because they have lost parents, siblings, neighbors and friends. Save The Children, an aid organization, has worked with some of these children before in attempts to keep their lives peaceful and provide nourishment for their bodies. Now, nearly 500,000 people have been uprooted after horrific violence in this area of the world.
President Michel Djotodia, a Muslim who came into power in a country mostly made up of Christians last March, has left for a meeting in Chad. He is being scrutinized for not having control of this situation. Rebels began killing Christians and Christians retaliated in return. Within these religious sectors, different ethnic tribes exist. They struggled to co-exist before last March and seemed to be getting along. Then the rebels stirred things up to gain further control and went house to house, pulling people out and murdering them.
Most of the violence is in Bangui and includes crimes against humanity such as torture, rape, drowning, lynching and even be-heading and humans set afire. Survivors have witnessed mass graves as they are being led out after torture and witnessing killings in the next room. This horrific violence in Central African Republic is tragic and has not been controlled.
As recently as yesterday, Jan. 8, aid organizations, French soldiers and peacekeepers from the African Union attempted to keep control in a very insecure city. This violence between the militias of Christians and Muslims has displaced nearly a million people, many of whom are hungry and have lost their homes. They hide in bushes, churches and schools. At least half of these people are children.
The UN Food Program has arrived and begun to feed these people after four weeks of chaos. Amnesty International states that 1,000 men were killed in December in two days. France has sent 1,600 troops for protection, and Africa has 4,000 peacekeepers. UNICEF, an agency from the United Nations, says at least two children were beheaded at the end of December. This is not men fighting men, but rather senseless, cruel killing and outright murder of a country’s own people. Children get recruited to plan and execute revenge attacks. This violates international human rights laws.
Who’s fleeing and where are they running to? Migrant workers are fleeing in mass evacuations that have been underway since the end of December. Chadians and Nigerians are waiting to be rescued. The airport at Bangui seems to be a safe house for people wanting to flee the violence and uncertainty of this region. These people are going by both air and land, as convoys assist thousands. All of these stranded people are in need of food, water and medical assistance, the basics.
This is the “largest evacuation effort in three years and could cost $152.2 million” according to the United Nations.
8,500 people on 51 flights is a mass effort itself, let alone almost 6,000 by land. Five migrant workers have died during the evacuation process already. Aid relief becomes difficult to deliver when half the city’s population has fled its homes amidst the militia turmoil and chaos. Even aid workers in a Catholic mission live in fear. They assist and try to protect 3,000 in a shelter, yet worker Vojtech Bily told the BBC, “That Christian militia have surrounded the town of Bozoum and could massacre Muslim residents.”
Militia, armed at these refugee camps, make it almost impossible for the UN to deliver what they need. With the uncertainty of who is in control, the horrific violence in Central African Republic has caused mass chaos, fear and displacement of its people.
By Kim Troike