Conditions at Refugee Camps 'Shocking' in Central African Republic

Central African Republic flag
Aid agencies estimate that at least 1 million people have been displaced by violence in Central African Republic. (hdptcar/Flickr/Creative Commons)

Aid agencies estimate that at least 1 million people, about a fifth of the population, have been displaced by violence in Central African Republic (CAR). Open Doors over the weekend visited two of the camps scattered around Bangui. [Around the airport there are about 100,000 refugees in camps.]

"There are 57 refugee sites in the city of Bangui. At the airport, there are at least 100,000 people. I went there this morning to worship and pray with the Christians who gathered there after victimization by ex-Seleka forces," wrote an Open Doors co-worker, who remains unidentified for security reasons. He reported that the atmosphere remains tense in the camps.

"The airport site inspires fear. Among the refugees there are members of anti-Balaka groups and also Muslims who disguise themselves as people of peace and then throw grenades among Christians."

Apart from the tense atmosphere, Open Doors' co-worker found the conditions the refugees are facing shocking. He witnessed the desperate circumstances aid agencies, including the U.N. humanitarian agency, have been reporting from CAR. The U.N. humanitarian agency last Saturday reported that there are growing food and clean water shortages with fear for tougher times ahead as many people have lost their livelihoods and don't have seed for the next planting season.

"People live like real animals. There is no latrine. People are living in over-crowded conditions," reported the co-worker.

Despite the obvious difficulties they are facing, the Christians gathered for worship.

"We had communion together," wrote the OD co-worker. After the service, he also visited the refugees at a second camp for worship service. It remains hard for him to be confronted with the immense need of those he met.

"I have met many pastors who have been victimized who are in dire need of assistance. Our discreet assistance to others previously has made a big difference and I hope that we can make the same difference for these pastors I recently met."

On Friday, interim president Michel Djotodia and Prime Minister Nicholas Tiangaye resigned after a two-day summit for regional leaders in Chad. Speaker of the provisions parliament, Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, was appointed interim president. He issued stern warning to ex-Seleka fighters and to anti-Balaka, saying: "The chaos is over, the pillaging is over, the revenge attacks are over."

Violence continued in Bangui over the weekend despite the presence of 1,600 French troops and 4,000 AU forces. By Monday it was reported that the atmosphere had calmed down some. For the countless refugees across the country, indications of the political will to make an end to the crisis are welcome. However, within the context of the failed state that resulted from the March 2013 coup, the new transitional leader to be appointed soon will need all the help he can get.

Open Doors, in partnership with the local church, continues to call on the United Nations Security Council to approve the launch of a full-scale peacekeeping operation in CAR, which is ranked No. 16 on the 2014 World Watch List released last week. CAR was previously unranked.

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