Recent NEWS

CAR: Tension high among civilians as violence surges

Tens of thousands fled the town of Bria after heavy fighting broke out this week in Central African Republic’s south.

By Cassandra Vinograd

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bria, Centrafrican Republic – The sounds of heavy gunfire drew Herman Pouka from his house one morning last week, putting him face to face with armed men in camouflage.

“As soon as I saw them I lost my senses,” he recalled. “I ran.”

He hid in a neighbour’s house until the firing subsided, then donned women’s clothes to flee towards a nearby UN base. “They don’t do anything to the women. Us? They kill us,” he explained.

He joined some 40,000 others who’d fled an eruption of violence in this central mining town. About two dozen people were killed in the fighting – including Pouka’s brother, Jonathan.

Jonathan had been walking with a friend when firing erupted; the friend ran and later recounted hearing Jonathan’s cries.

“He was so fun. He smiled a lot,” Pouka said, his body starting to shake before he devolved into guttural sobs. “We haven’t been able to bury him… The pigs ate at his body.”

Herman Pouka’s brother was killed trying to flee armed men near Bria [Cassandra Vinograd/Al Jazeera]

The fighting in Bria is the culmination of a spasm of violence that killed about 300 people in two weeks around the Cental African Republic. It has sent shockwaves through an already traumatised population and ripples of fear throughout CAR that the country is descending back into chaos.

A predominantly Muslim rebel coalition known as the Seleka toppled CAR’s government in 2013, looting and killing its way through the country. Local defence groups dubbed the anti-Balaka rose up to fight them. Both sides were accused of atrocities.

The arrival of UN peacekeepers in September 2014 helped staunch the bloodshed, but not before thousands of lives were lost and some 800,000 people forced from their homes. A democratic election was held in 2016 – which was billed as a sign of hope for CAR’s future.

But just over a year later, those hopes have all but evaporated. And the international community has started to withdraw and look away.

“Elections should not be made as a benchmark for the international community to leave,” cautioned Joseph Inganji, the UN humanitarian agency’s chief of office for CAR.

OPINION: Chasing ghosts in the Central African Republic

Today, CAR’s democratically elected government wields little to no power outside of the capital, Bangui. More than a dozen armed groups control vast swathes of the country, exercising their own brands of authority from taxation to justice.

And the shaky calm that had held since the election has in recent weeks erupted into violence at a level not seen in years – some say since the peak of the conflict in 2014. The fighting has taken on ethnic dimensions, adding another layer of complexity to an already complicated and fragmented crisis.

The UN said on Thursday that 300 people have died in renewed violence in the past two weeks.

There was an attack on the southern town of Alindao. A days-long assault on the southeastern town of Bangassou followed. Six UN peacekeepers were killed in the span of a week. And then the guns started firing in Bria.

“The situation is worsening,” Inganji said. “We can only know the consequences that are related to this upsurge of violence, but actually who is behind that or why the violence is increasing, we really do not know.”

A November attack in Bria was still fresh in the minds of those in the town when fighting erupted last week.

When it comes to the question of why the situation has exploded anew, the answer is: It’s complicated.

Locals and analysts alike tend to reject the idea religion is – or was – truly behind the initial crisis and today’s violence. They say it’s more about power, and profit.

Some analysts suggested that armed groups grew tired of waiting for promised positions in the government and broader representation – like the ex-Seleka in particular. Others said it’s about CAR’s multitude of natural resources; more still said it was just too difficult to know what exactly is driving the violence.

“The promises or the hope that the elections brought about … haven’t materialised and we continue to see serious challenges with issues like disarmament, demobilisation, reconciliation and very importantly justice and accountability,” said Evan Cinq-Mars, a CAR expert and a policy adviser at the non-profit Center for Civilians in Conflict.

“All of these outstanding issues not being resolved are contributing to these cycles of violence … and the upswing.”

Still, he said the violence must be viewed in the context of a broader deterioration of the security situation and civilian protection since mid-2016.

That’s when different factions of the Seleka attempted to align themselves under one broader umbrella movement. However, one faction known as the UPC resisted.

“That really kicked off what we’ve seen since November – particularly in Bria, Bambari, and other areas of the east and south,” Cinq-Mars explained.

Interactive: The war across the river

Now in addition to fighting each other, armed groups are targeting civilians based on ethnicity, religion, and perceived support for other combatants.

That means it’s becomes increasingly difficult to figure out who is fighting who. These days, it’s not just the ex-Seleka or anti-Balaka.

When it comes to the recent attacks, “people need to start asking questions about who these individuals are, who they’re tied to”, Cinq-Mars said.

The Seleka were at the outset an alliance, or coalition, of predominantly Muslim groups. Those have since fractured.

“The term ex-Seleka – I don’t think it’s very useful anymore because the efforts to bring all different groups under one umbrella have not really progressed,” Cinq-Mars added. “Now, they don’t call themselves that. They call themselves the FPRC, the UPC.”

At least one faction of the ex-Seleka – the FPRC – has struck a tenuous alliance with elements of the anti-Balaka, once their sworn enemy. They united to fight against the UPC and – according to some – the Peuhl ethnic minority. The UPC’s leader is an ethnic Peuhl.

The nature of the anti-Balaka is even harder to pin down given that the term from the outset referred to a disparate grouping of local self-defence militias with no clear chain of command.

To Cinq-Mars, billing recent violence as clashes between ex-Seleka factions and anti-Balaka could even be counterproductive.

“I’m not sure that calling these groups one name or another adds anything but more questions because it’s really difficult to nail down who’s committing what,” he added.

That doesn’t mean civilians are any less scared of what is to come.

“People are very nervous about the situation,” Oxfam’s CAR country director Ferran Puig told Al Jazeera. “The tension is very, very high.”

He described how security and alliances change in CAR from day to day, calling the situation “very confusing”.

“What needs to happen is really for [armed groups] to stop this fighting, to negotiate a peace agreement or something like that… Just think about people,” he said. “But now it looks like that’s really a dream, at least for the short term.”

The south and southeast of the country are of particular concern going forward – not least because the UN peacekeeping mission is overstretched and under-resourced. The withdrawal of US Special Forces and Ugandan troops too – deployed in the southeast of CAR in search of LRA leader Joseph Kony – isn’t expected to bode well for civilians.

“It’s contributed to a larger security vacuum in that region of CAR that is certainly posing problematic as the situation deteriorates in the south and southeast,” Cinq-Mars said.

“In the absence of international peacekeepers and given the fact that this is an area which largely does not have any state presence, we’re going to see armed groups continue to control vast swathes of territory in CAR and subject civilians in these areas to abuses, extortion, taxation.”

In the meantime, aid agencies warn the number of internally displaced could soon hit 500,000. Compounding matters is a grossly underfunded humanitarian aid appeal – at just 16 percent – in a country where half the population is in need of assistance.

The pope last week appealed for peace in Central African Republic and the International Criminal Court said it was “monitoring” the recent wave of violence.

For now, Bria is calm but tensions are still running high. Officials say members of armed groups have infiltrated sites for the displaced. Fighters can be spotted throughout the town – along with packs of pigs, foraging in the mud and grass.

Pigs forage for food in the largely deserted town of Bria [Cassandra Vinograd/Al Jazeera]

The fighting displaced almost the entire population of Bria, giving the red-dusty streets the eerie sense of a ghost town.

By Friday signs of civilian life were returning – a few shops had opened and some people appeared to be returning to their homes.

Sylviane Longago, though, said she would not be among them.

“The house was burned. Where will I go?” the 42-year-old mother of eight asked, crouching in a muddy site for the displaced. “I have no option other than to stay here.”

She was with her husband and children when shots rang out on Tuesday, telling Al Jazeera even the small ones understood the noise meant danger.

“I left with only the clothes I’m wearing,” she said, pointing to her blue yellow and green wrap. “We fled into the bush.”

Longago said she passed out from duress amid the chaos; her husband was shot in the foot while carrying her to safety. On a recent afternoon they sat in an empty and half-finished shelter, a filthy bandage covering her husband’s wound.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said, listing off what her family had lost. “Even the children’s notebooks, their clothes – burned.”

“Who is the one that did this and can feel nothing?” she asked. “Everyone feels something.”

She added: “They’re thieves. They came just to steal. Justice must be done.”

Sylviane Longago and her family narrowly escaped gunmen who attacked their home [Cassandra Vinograd/Al Jazeera]

Source: Al Jazeera News

136 Comments on CAR: Tension high among civilians as violence surges

  1. Good day! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering
    which blog platform are you using for this website?
    I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems
    with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform.
    I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  2. Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this website.
    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s challenging to get that
    “perfect balance” between usability and visual appearance.
    I must say that you’ve done a very good job with this.
    Also, the blog loads super quick for me on Chrome.
    Superb Blog!

  3. Unquestionably believe that which you stated.
    Your favourite justification seemed to be on the internet the easiest factor to be aware of.

    I say to you, I definitely get irked even as folks think
    about issues that they plainly don’t recognise about. You managed to
    hit the nail upon the highest and also outlined out the entire
    thing without having side effect , people could take a signal.
    Will probably be again to get more. Thank you

  4. Tremendous things here. I am very satisfied to see your post.
    Thank you a lot and I’m looking ahead to contact you.
    Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

  5. Hello! I know this is kinda off topic however I’d figured I’d ask.
    Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a blog post or vice-versa?
    My website goes over a lot of the same subjects as yours and I feel we could greatly benefit from each other.
    If you are interested feel free to shoot me an email. I look forward to hearing
    from you! Superb blog by the way!

  6. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
    Look advanced to more added agreeable from you! However, how could we communicate?

  7. I think everything said made a great deal of sense.
    However, think about this, suppose you added a little
    content? I ain’t saying your information isn’t solid,
    however suppose you added a title that makes people desire more?
    I mean CAR: Tension high among civilians as violence surges –
    Le Nouveau Centrafrique is kinda boring. You might glance at
    Yahoo’s home page and note how they create news titles to grab people to open the links.
    You might add a related video or a related pic or two to grab
    readers excited about everything’ve written. In my opinion,
    it could make your website a little bit more interesting.

  8. Greetings! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do you know how
    to make your site mobile friendly? My blog looks weird
    when browsing from my iphone4. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to resolve this issue.
    If you have any recommendations, please share. Thank you!

  9. you are in point of fact a good webmaster. The site loading
    pace is incredible. It sort of feels that you are doing any distinctive trick.
    Furthermore, The contents are masterpiece.

    you have done a excellent process in this topic!

  10. Have you ever thought about publishing an ebook or guest authoring on other blogs?

    I have a blog based upon on the same topics you discuss and would really
    like to have you share some stories/information. I
    know my subscribers would value your work.
    If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e mail.

  11. I do agree with all the ideas you have offered for your post.

    They’re very convincing and can definitely work.
    Nonetheless, the posts are very short for starters. May just you please prolong them a little from
    next time? Thank you for the post.

  12. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three
    e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me
    from that service? Thank you!

  13. Hi, i think that i saw you visited my site thus
    i came to “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to
    enhance my web site!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

  14. My programmer is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP.
    I have always disliked the idea because of the costs. But he’s tryiong none the less.

    I’ve been using WordPress on various websites for about a
    year and am anxious about switching to another platform.
    I have heard great things about Is there a way I
    can import all my wordpress posts into it? Any kind of help would be really appreciated!

  15. I have been browsing online greater than three hours lately, but I never discovered any
    interesting article like yours. It is pretty price enough for me.
    In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made just right content as you probably did, the net will likely be much more helpful than ever before.

  16. Excellent website you have here but I was curious about
    if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics talked about
    here? I’d really like to be a part of community where I can get
    responses from other experienced people that share the same
    interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.

  17. Great blog here! Additionally your website rather a lot
    up fast! What host are you the use of? Can I am getting your associate hyperlink on your host?
    I desire my web site loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  18. You actually make it appear really easy along with
    your presentation however I find this matter to be actually
    something which I feel I might by no means understand.
    It seems too complex and extremely large for me. I’m taking a look
    forward in your next submit, I will try to get the cling of it!

  19. This is the perfect site for everyone who wishes to find out about
    this topic. You understand so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that
    I actually will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a
    brand new spin on a subject which has been discussed for years.

    Great stuff, just great!

  20. I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here.
    The sketch is tasteful, your authored material stylish.

    nonetheless, you command get bought an impatience over
    that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably
    come more formerly again as exactly the same nearly
    a lot often inside case you shield this increase.

  21. Hi! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone 4!
    Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts!

    Carry on the excellent work!

  22. Hey there I am so glad I found your webpage, I
    really found you by error, while I was looking on Aol for something else,
    Regardless I am here now and would just like to say cheers for a marvelous post and a all round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the minute but I have bookmarked it
    and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have
    time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up the awesome work.

  23. Please let me know if you’re looking for a article author for your site.
    You have some really great articles and I feel I would be a
    good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some articles for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine.
    Please shoot me an email if interested. Many thanks!

  24. Woah! I’m really loving the template/theme of this site. It’s simple,
    yet effective. A lot of times it’s tough to get that “perfect balance” between usability and appearance.
    I must say you’ve done a amazing job with this.

    Additionally, the blog loads extremely fast for me
    on Chrome. Exceptional Blog!

  25. You are so cool! I don’t think I have read through anything like this before.
    So wonderful to discover somebody with a few original
    thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up.
    This web site is something that is needed on the internet, someone
    with a little originality!

  26. Hi there I am so happy I found your webpage, I really found you by accident, while
    I was looking on Askjeeve for something else, Anyhow I am
    here now and would just like to say cheers for a remarkable post and a all round
    exciting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time
    to go through it all at the minute but I have book-marked it and
    also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read
    a great deal more, Please do keep up the superb job.

  27. Helpful information. Lucky me I discovered your web site unintentionally,
    and I’m shocked why this accident did not came about in advance!
    I bookmarked it.

  28. I have to thank you for the efforts you have put in penning this site.
    I’m hoping to check out the same high-grade content by you later
    on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my
    own, personal website now 😉

  29. Hi! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect against hackers?
    I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on. Any suggestions?

  30. Hi there everyone, it’s my first go to see at this web page,
    and piece of writing is genuinely fruitful designed for me, keep up
    posting such content.

  31. It’s amazing to pay a visit this website and reading the views of all
    friends regarding this paragraph, while I am also zealous of getting familiarity.

  32. Admiring the persistence you put into your blog and in depth information you
    present. It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted
    rehashed information. Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including
    your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  33. I’ve read several excellent stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting.

    I surprise how much effort you set to make any such excellent informative site.

  34. What’s up to every body, it’s my first pay a visit of this weblog; this blog includes
    awesome and actually fine information in support of readers.

  35. Hi! This is my first visit to your blog! We are
    a collection of volunteers and starting a new initiative
    in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a extraordinary job!

  36. What’s up, this weekend is good designed for me, as this moment i am reading this
    wonderful informative article here at my house.

  37. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I actually enjoyed reading it, you
    are a great author. I will make sure to bookmark your blog and will come back
    at some point. I want to encourage that you continue your
    great work, have a nice holiday weekend!

  38. It is the best time to make some plans for the future and it is time
    to be happy. I have learn this submit and if I could I desire to recommend you few interesting
    things or suggestions. Maybe you can write next articles referring to this article.
    I wish to learn more things about it!

  39. Spot on with this write-up, I really believe this amazing site needs a great deal
    more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for
    the information!

  40. My spouse and I stumbled over here from a different web page
    and thought I might check things out. I like
    what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to looking at your web page again.

  41. Hello! I could have sworn I’ve visited this blog before
    but after browsing through a few of the articles I realized
    it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m certainly happy I found it
    and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back often!

  42. That is a great tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere.
    Simple but very accurate info… Many thanks for sharing
    this one. A must read article!

  43. buy cialis without a doctor’s prescription
    buy cialis without prescription cialis without prescription online buy cialis without a doctor’s prescription buy cialis without a doctor’s prescription

  44. Very nice post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog
    and wished to mention that I’ve truly loved surfing around your
    blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed
    and I am hoping you write again very soon!

  45. Hi! I simply wish to offer you a big thumbs up for your great information you’ve got here on this post.

    I will be returning to your website for more soon.

  46. You are so interesting! I do not believe I
    have read something like this before. So wonderful to find someone
    with some genuine thoughts on this subject matter.
    Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This
    site is something that is needed on the internet, someone
    with some originality!

  47. Ahaa, its pleasant discussion on the topic
    of this paragraph here at this webpage, I have
    read all that, so at this time me also commenting at this place.

  48. Great post. I used to be checking continuously this blog and I am impressed!
    Extremely useful information particularly the final section :
    ) I handle such info much. I used to be seeking this certain info for a very lengthy time.
    Thank you and good luck.

Comments are closed.