Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

#IceBucketChallenge and hashtag activism

Read more

DEBATE

Pakistan's Political Turmoil: Can Imran Khan's PTI Party Depose the Government? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Pakistan's Political Turmoil: Can Imran Khan's PTI Party Depose the Government?

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users taking on the "Ice Bucket Challenge" to fight ALS

Read more

FOCUS

Israel's minorities and military service

Read more

ENCORE!

Montreal Stories

Read more

DEBATE

Racism, riots and police violence: USA under scrutiny (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Racism, riots and police violence: USA under scrutiny

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Guillaume Foliot, Deputy Director, World Food Programme in Burma

Read more

  • IS militants ‘behead’ missing US journalist in gruesome video

    Read more

  • Deadly airstrikes hit Gaza as ceasefire with Israel collapses

    Read more

  • Tentative peace in Ferguson despite second fatal shooting

    Read more

  • Suspected Ebola cases in Austria, new drug raises hopes

    Read more

  • WWII anniversary highlights best - and worst - of Paris police

    Read more

  • Headscarf at the beach sparks French MEP’s fury

    Read more

  • Iraqi army clashes with militants in Tikrit after retaking key dam

    Read more

  • Video: Life in under-siege Donetsk

    Read more

  • Racism, riots and police violence: USA under scrutiny

    Read more

  • ‘Let it be’: Londoners sick of Abbey Road tourists

    Read more

  • Australia to free children from immigration detention centres

    Read more

  • Nicaraguan army deployed to guard sea turtle nests

    Read more

Africa

Video: Humanitarian crisis hits CAR monastery

© FRANCE 24

Video by Matthieu MABIN , Alexander TURNBULL

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-12

At a monastery in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), a FRANCE 24 team find religious authorities struggling to cope with a humanitarian disaster as French and AU troops attempt to secure the conflict-hit nation.

Wrapped in a tiny woollen jumper that’s nevertheless way too big for her, little Ségolène sleeps peacefully, oblivious to the trauma she's endured since her birth two weeks ago.

Her mother arrived at this Christian monastery in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), just days after Ségolène’s birth.

Like hundreds of thousands of others in this sparsely populated nation of 5 million people, Ségolène’s mother fled the brutal violence in her Bangui neighbourhood for the safety of this monastery.

In a room packed with women and their young children, a mother of infant twins lists her struggles to find the most basic necessities.

"We need milk, clothes, medicine, skin cream but also soap to stay clean," she says resignedly.

An international intervention is in full swing in the CAR a week after a US Security Council Resolution approved a military operation to secure this impoverished, conflict-hit nation. About 1,600 French troops have been deployed to the CAR and an African Union (AU) force is expected to increase to around 6,000 troops.

But violence persists in the capital city as well as the countryside. Earlier this week, two French soldiers were killed in a firefight near the airport in Bangui, underscoring the challenges confronting the disarmament process in the CAR.

The CAR’s latest crisis erupted earlier this year, when thousands of mostly Muslim rebels – including fighters from neighbouring countries – from the Seleka rebel alliance swept down to the capital from the impoverished North, ousting the Christian president.

As the rebels went on a pillaging spree in Bangui, Christian militia groups rose to protect their communities, setting the stage for an increasingly sectarian conflict in this Christian-majority country.

‘It’s nearly unbearable’

While French and AU troops are working to secure the CAR, the humanitarian situation has turned critical in a country where more than 100,000 people have been displaced.

At the Bangui monastery, Sister Flore has arranged for the mothers of young children to have a quiet place to rest.

Leading the FRANCE 24 team down a corridor, the Christian nun stops at a locked door and opens it to display a clean, sparsely furnished room.

"Here's the sisters' sitting room, where 15 people sleep at night...pregnant women along with the children," says Sister Flore.

But outside the monastery’s gardens, the sanitary situation is awful.

Thousands of families are camped in the gardens. Women prepare flour for a meal, grinding edible leaves to supplement their diets.

The priests and nuns are swamped and desperately trying to cope with the humanitarian situation.

The first refugees arrived here barely a week ago. Their numbers went from 2,000 to 15,000 in just a few days. Religious authorities have now simply stopped counting.

Brother Yeelen makes his way past the teeming garden, his face etched with worry.

"It's nearly unbearable, we’re at our limits. You see some of these people who arrived, they're forced to sleep where they defecate in the fields, they're not afraid of the snakes any more so they just lay down their mat and sleep there,” he says. “On Friday, it rained during the night and they had no choice but to stay under the rain and sit in the mud...it’s mind-boggling."

Old wounds fester, new ones get a sticking plaster

Most, if not all, the refugees here are Christians. They believe the former Seleka rebels are responsible for their suffering – even thought the Seleka alliance has officially been disbanded.

All the refugees here blame interim president Michel Djotodia, the former Seleka leader who ousted former president François Bozizé in March.

"We can only leave this place when Djotodia has left the country. Then, we can go back to our neighbourhoods and live peacefully,” says a young woman as a crowd gathers around her in the monastery gardens. “We saw those Seleka rebels come to our neighbourhood and make us suffer, we saw them kill us, the Selekas, they hurt me," she says the crowd around her shouts their agreement.

In other areas of the city, the CAR’s Muslim civilians have amassed from across the country, fearing reprisals by Christians who blame the community for the Seleka rebels’ excesses.

The uprising in the CAR’s north was sparked by economic and grievances in the remote part of the country. Rebel leader-turned-transitional president Djotodia complained about decades of disenfranchisement in the north, cut off from the rest of the country and the world due to a lack of roads and basic infrastructure.

But those historic grievances will probably not be addressed in the near future as international troops try to put a band-aid on a new wound that threatens this unstable nation.

Date created : 2013-12-12

  • CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

    US military to transport African Union troops to CAR

    Read more

  • FRANCE 24 EXCLUSIVE

    Hollande calls for swift elections in CAR

    Read more

  • AFRICA - SECURITY

    Can the dream of an African security force come true?

    Read more

COMMENT(S)