CAR Refugees Flee Conflict

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YAOUNDE, Cameroon--Those seeking refuge from violence in the Central African Republic are turning to nearby Cameroon for sanctuary. Since December, around 85,000 displaced individuals have flooded the country. However, insufficient resources prevent it from being the safe haven they need.

Between April 14 and May 19, 29 children (infants to nine-year-olds) have died en route to Cameroon. The weeks-long journey from CAR is difficult and leaves many refugees severely malnourished. Some are already wounded due to CAR violence. Other conditions include hypothermia and dehydration.

Operations backed by the World Food Programme and the UN Refugee Agency are attempting to provide food, shelter and medical care, including vaccinations.  The Regional Refugee Response Plan, which along with Cameroon also assists Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of the Congo in handling refugees is severely underfunded.

More than 2,000 refugees continue to trickle into Cameroon. The number is down from around 10,000 per week -- not because there are fewer refugees, but because main roads are now blocked by anti-balaka, Christian militants.

The flow of refugees coincides with the beginning of the rainy season. As well as causing a deterioration in housing conditions, this can also result in the spread of diseases.

Cannibalism, Child Mutilations in Central African Republic

Central african child peers through wall, photo by pierre holtz

Central african child peers through wall, photo by pierre holtz

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Africa -- Violence among Christian and Muslim militias in the Central African Republic (CAR) remains alarmingly high.

Despite intervention efforts, death and displacement continue. In this troubled environment, there have been reports of cannibalism as well as revenge-killings targeting children.

Ouandja “Mad Dog” Magloire, a Christian, has admitted to beating and stabbing a Muslim man before dousing him with petrol, setting him on fire, and eating parts of his body.

Magloire claims revenge as his motive, saying that Muslims had killed his pregnant wife, his sister-in-law and her baby.

The victim of cannibalism, who was attacked in broad daylight by Magloire and approximately 20 other men, was not personally connected to Magloire’s losses.

Other revenge crimes involve children who are mutilated or beheaded. Over 130 children have been killed or maimed since January, usually in machete or knife attacks. These are clearly crimes against humanity, but there is no justice system currently stable enough to hold anyone responsible for their actions.

Not only are children preyed upon in retaliation attacks, they are also often recruited into armed groups. During the evacuation and displacement of over 500,000 individuals, already-vulnerable children are more likely to be unattended and harder to protect.

Hope may come in the form of Catherine Samba-Panza. She was elected in January to serve a one-year term of interim president while the CAR, hopefully, gains stability. She has no connection to either Muslim or Christian groups and urges both sides to lay down their arms. So far, nobody seems to be listening.

The Central African Republic Crisis Rages On

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa Correspondent
Last Modified: 23:16 p.m. DST, 18 December 2013

CAR Rebel Exercising, Photo by hdptcarCENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Africa - I first wrote about the Central African Republic’s deplorable conditions in September, and the situation has worsened since. Luckily, the international community has recently made much larger efforts to step in, intervene, and restore stability but there is still immense and lofty work to be done.

From December 5th through 7th, UNICEF reported that within those 72 hours alone, 60,000 citizens were displaced and 394 were killed. At this point a week ago, the internally displaced persons count had risen to half a million people.

After this extremely deadly period of three days, France finally decided to send in troops to this area and militarily push to end the conflict.

Although international presence may help resolve this conflict in the main hotspots, the destruction and horrors are continuing across the country in small villages and areas isolated from help.

IDP camps are popping up across the country, and as they do, these displaced persons also lack access to adequate shelter, sanitation, food and water. These problems are thus mounting and exponentially piling on top of one another, so more must be done before the damage is irreversible and before more innocent people die.

This international intervention also follows the successful work by the UN and MONUSCO to shut down the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so this could hopefully be a precedent for how to end the rebellious conflict in the Central African Republic. If the UN and its diverse troops were able to tackle several conflicts such as these, this may set a much needed tone for African states that murderous rebels will not be tolerated.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report
Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Central African Republic's Tragic Conditions

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 21:41 p.m. DST, 12 September 2013

CAR Malaria Victim Helped by Aid Victim, Photo by Merlin-Frédéric Courbet-PanosCENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Africa - A few United Nations agencies have released new reports that disclose the dire statistics of the current status of the Central African Republic (CAR). Although a peace agreement was reached in January between the national government and the Séléka rebel coalition, the rebels soon reclaimed the capital of Bangui and have since repeatedly stirred up violence and lawlessness through the volatile country.

The newest UN reports reveal that villages are still being burned to the ground by armed militants which has forced thousands to flee their homes and seek basic human necessities. It is has been calculated that over a third of the country's population of 4.6 million people are in desperate need of food, shelter, healthcare, water, protection and sanitation.

This is clearly a huge humanitarian crisis, and poses a threat to the ever-increasing unstable region. The DRC to the south has its own civil conflict raging on, and refugees from the CAR are fleeing into neighboring Chad and Cameroon daily.

As torture, looting, kidnapping, assaults and extortion continue through the country, UN agencies are trying to provide all of the assistance they can, but it is imperative that the central government regain control of the country and put an end to the rebels' stronghold on power. As long as the rebels have unchecked power, they will continue to ravage the countryside for food, supplies, and potential human capital.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols

Rebels Overthrow CAR President, Seize Bangui

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Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 03:10 a.m. DST, 25 March 2013

Central African Republic Government Forces, Photo by Brice Blondel for HDPTCARBANGUI, Central African Republic - Rebels overthrew the Central African Republic’s President this Sunday. According to the Associated Press, the rebels, known as the coalition group Seleka,  declared that the country has “opened a new page in its history.”

President Francois Bozize fled while extra French troops have moved to secure the airport, officials said.

Two months prior to the overthrow, the rebels had signed a peace deal to allow the President to stay in power until 2016. However, the rebels began accusing the President of not following-up in his promises.

In the days leading up to the overthrow of Bozize, the rebels have performed several armed attacks. They captured the north city of Bambari and the area around Bria.

Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General condemned the attacks. According to the Uganda Daily Eye, Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement issued on Wednesday night saying, “These developments gravely undermine the peace agreements in place and the efforts of the international community to consolidate peace in the Central African Republic.” Ban urged for all parties to cease hostilities immediately.

The Central African Republic (CAR) President Bozize pleaded with Foreign Powers for help. He focused especially on seeking French assistance, as they were their former colonizer.

Paris declined military assistance.

Following the overthrow of Bozize by the rebels, Reuters reports that the French President’s office said that they would send more troops to protect their citizens. President François Hollande spoke with Ban and Chadian President Idriss Deby and reiterated his plea for restraint and dialogue between the parties.

Associated Press reports that Ban condemned the unconstitutional seizure of power and called for a restoration of constitutional order. He also expressed concern over reports of human rights violations.

Central African Republic, a nation of 4.5 million, has long been wracked by rebellions and power grabs. Bozize himself took power in 2003 following a rebellion, and his tenure has been marked by conflict with myriad armed groups.

The landlocked country has been wracked by rebellions and power grabs. CAR held their first multi-party democratic elections in 1933 which brought Ange-Felix Patasse to power. He lost popular support and was overthrown in 2003 by French-backed Bozize. Following Bozize’s re-election in 2011, his rule was plagued with corruption, underdevelopment, authoritarianism, and the creation of an open rebellion against Bozize’s government by an alliance of armed opposition factions known as Seleka.

In December of 2012, Seleka launched its offensive, accusing Bozize of reneging on a peace deal and demanded that he step down.

Seleka signed a ceasefire agreement and joined a power-sharing agreement government on 11 January 2013 and dropped their demands for Bozize to resign. However, on 23 January 2013, the ceasefire was broken and the government blamed Seleka, Seleka blaming the government for failing to honor the terms of the power-sharing agreement.

By March 24, rebels entered Bangui and took over the Presidential Palace. According to GlobalVoices, Michel Djotodia has declared himself as president of CAR. This information remains unconfirmed by other news sources.

The African Union condemned Seleka’s actions and announced a travel ban and assets freeze against actors involved in violating humanitarian rights or the January peace agreement, reports CNN.

The office of President Hollande said in a statement that some South African soldiers were killed in clashes that lead up to the overthrow of Bozize. UN spokeswoman Uwolowulakana Ikavi said that UN offices and some residences of UN personnel were looted.

Meanwhile in CAR, Seleka rebels urged citizens to remain calm and to prepare themselves to welcome rebel forces into the country, CNN reports.

The recent events highlight the problems of Bozize’s government. CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world, and among the ten poorest countries in Africa. According to the Human Development Index (HDI) CAR received a 0.343, which gives the country a rank of 179 out of 187 countries within their data.

HDI is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income that ranks countries into four tiers of human development. Countries with ratings near 1 indicates high human development, while ratings near 0 indicate low human development.

Additionally, a 2009 Human Rights Report by the US Department of States notes that CAR’s human rights record remained poor, with concerns over numerous government abuses.

The take-over indicates the desperation of the country and its citizens. Without the improvement of the government, Bozize and others will find that peace will be difficult to negotiate with Seleka rebels.

Follow Alex Hamasaki on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @aghamasaki

 

Ugandans Leverage Viral Activism

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 23:54 PM EDT,  23 April 2012

Evelyn, she was one of LRA leader Joseph Kony's child brides, Photo by Sean SpragueKAMPALA, Uganda - The Joseph Kony video that revealed gross human rights abuses in Uganda, particularly with regard to the kidnapping of children who were subsequently pressed into war as child soldiers, is not without its critics. Many Ugandans feel that their involvement in fighting against the ills that plague their war-torn country were portrayed peripherally if at all.

In the video below, the Ugandan people want the world to remember that they are like other people living in conflict areas around the world - they are inherently resilient, dedicated to conflict resolution, and involved in creating solutions to the problems which afflict their country and society.

This does not mean that The Kony 2012 video which went viral was not positive, only that it didn't go as far as it could from the perspective of the Ugandan people. There are many Ugandan activists on the ground making a difference, in fact, we recently featured a post on 'Victoria Seeds | Josephine Okot,' who is working to reeducate and train women to become successful farmers and businesswomen.

Africans are no different from most people engaged in life or death struggles. They are people of great courage fighting for the right of self-determination like groups in countries across the Middle East, fighting for the right to live in a conflict free society as are people in other countries across Africa, and for economic or religious equality as do people in Asia, Europe and the United States.

The difference usually lies in how the media portrays Africans versus these other cultures. Unfortunately, Africans are often portrayed as victims instead of victorious survivors, capable of effecting positive, lasting change in their societies and communities without external intervention. Though the Kony 2012 video is not guilty of this bias, many Africans through force of habit and historical experiences, reacted to the video with lukewarm response.

Thus, the first video features Ugandans telling their stories in their voices about their lives and the many challenges they face in their country including Kony. They share with us how this conflict has affected them, but also how they are persevering, thriving, and succeeding.

The second video is a response by the producers of the Kony 2012 video to its many critics, and documents the genesis of the project, the original objectives, and the utter surprise that this video project would garner so much attention and support.

Whatever side of the discussion you find yourself on, this video has done more than most in bringing the genocide that is occurring across the Continent front and center to the global consciousness. It is both inspirational and instructive because it demonstrates that each one of us is capable of making a profoundly positive difference, and if we just have the courage of conviction to follow-through on our dreams, we may be surprised at the global impact our vision coupled with action can have.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias