After several weeks of bloody violence in Bangui, hundreds of thousands of people have now been displaced. Although the city is patrolled by French and African peacekeeping forces, the situation is still not under control. Our reporters on the ground witnessed the daily clashes and met the Christian and Muslim communities who now live in fear of each other.
The situation in the Central African Republic is extremely complex; many different forces are involved. In March 2013 the Seleka rebels toppled the former president François Bozizé and replaced him with Michel Djotodia.
The Seleka are mainly Muslims. After they came to power they carried out atrocities, and this led to the creation of self-defence groups called the anti-Balaka. Throughout December there were many clashes between the anti-Balaka and the former Seleka rebels. Last month more than one thousand people are believed to have been killed.
Another problem comes from the presence of different international forces in the country. The UN-mandated African force MISCA has nearly 4,000 troops. Among them are the Burundians, who last month accused the Chadians of having opened fire on them. Chad denies this.
In the Muslim districts many feel that the French forces (1,600 men) disarm the Seleka but not the anti-Balaka; France rejects the allegation. And in the Christian areas residents say Chadian forces are siding with the Seleka.
All the fighting has led to a dire humanitarian situation. Some 800,000 people have fled their homes, half of them in Bangui. In the capital, the largest camp is around the airport where 100,000 residents now live under tarpaulins, with no running water. One of the few NGOs there, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), said Thursday it was reducing its activities at the camp because of the violence in the area.
MSF says there is an urgent need for more humanitarian aid. The most shocking aspect, they said, is that this camp is not isolated in the jungle, but beside the airport of an African capital.
Text by Nicolas Germain