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Thousands flee rebel violence in Central African Republic

An 80-years-old woman who requested to remain anonymous sits in her makeshifts shelter in the village of Cesacoba, Central African Republic, Sunday Fe...
Monique Moukidje, 34, left, poses for a picture with her two children Marienne and Odalvia, in Mbangui-Ngoro, a Central African Republic village where...
A toy machine gun sits in the mud in the village of Siwa, Central African Republic, Saturday Feb. 13, 2021. An estimated 240,000 people have been disp...
Displaced woman and children stand by their makeshifts shelter in the village of Cesacoba, Central African Republic, Sunday Feb. 14, 2021. An estimate...
A man who requested to remain anonymous who fled Bangassou, Central African Republic, is photographed in the village of Siwa where he and his wife fou...
Displaced people who fled Bangassou use this water source to drink, cook and wash in the village of Siwa where they found refuge, in Central African R...
Moroccan UN peacekeepers patrol the village of Cesacoba, Central African Republic, Sunday Feb. 14, 2021. An estimated 240,000 people have been displac...
Displaced people who fled Bangassou wait for food distribution in the village where they found refuge, Siwa, Central African Republic, Saturday Feb. 1...
Bella Kembi, 49-years-old, is photographed Sunday Feb. 14, 2021 in her makeshift shelter in the village of Cesacoba, Central Africa Rebublic where she...
Two girls run between makeshift shelters in the village of Siwa, Central African Republic, Saturday Feb. 13, 2021. An estimated 240,000 people have be...
The streets of Bangassou, Central African Republic, remain empty on Saturday Feb. 13, 2021, as most residents fled when rebels attacked with heavy wea...
Sebaste Kondo, 57, shows the scar in his back, left by a bullet that remained lodged there since 2018, in the Central African Republic village of Cesa...
Saint-Cyr Boussa smokes a cigarette, surrounded by his brothers in the village of Cesacoba, Central African Republic, Sunday Feb. 14, 2021. "We ran aw...
Moroccan UN peacekeepers patrol the town of Bangassou, Central African Republic, Monday Feb. 15, 2021. An estimated 240,000 people have been displaced...
39-years-old merchant Oumar Youssouf, is photographed at the Apostolic Seminary where he seeked shelter in Bangassou, Central African Republic, Tuesda...
Jeremy Kowomando, 32, and his 14-large family, cross the Mbomou river back into Bangassou, Central African Republic, from Ndu in the Democratic Republ...
An unidentified woman carries her belongings on her head after crossing the Mbomou river back into Bangassou, Central African Republic, from Ndu in th...
Moroccan UN peacekeepers patrol Bangassou, Central African Republic, Sunday Feb. 14, 2021. An estimated 240,000 people have been displaced in the coun...
Pierrette Benguere, Prefect of the Mbomou area, is photographed in her house in Bangassou, Central African Republic, Monday Feb. 15, 2021. Benguere, w...

An 80-years-old woman who requested to remain anonymous sits in her makeshifts shelter in the village of Cesacoba, Central African Republic, Sunday Fe...

Monique Moukidje, 34, left, poses for a picture with her two children Marienne and Odalvia, in Mbangui-Ngoro, a Central African Republic village where...

A toy machine gun sits in the mud in the village of Siwa, Central African Republic, Saturday Feb. 13, 2021. An estimated 240,000 people have been disp...

Displaced woman and children stand by their makeshifts shelter in the village of Cesacoba, Central African Republic, Sunday Feb. 14, 2021. An estimate...

A man who requested to remain anonymous who fled Bangassou, Central African Republic, is photographed in the village of Siwa where he and his wife fou...

Displaced people who fled Bangassou use this water source to drink, cook and wash in the village of Siwa where they found refuge, in Central African R...

Moroccan UN peacekeepers patrol the village of Cesacoba, Central African Republic, Sunday Feb. 14, 2021. An estimated 240,000 people have been displac...

Displaced people who fled Bangassou wait for food distribution in the village where they found refuge, Siwa, Central African Republic, Saturday Feb. 1...

Bella Kembi, 49-years-old, is photographed Sunday Feb. 14, 2021 in her makeshift shelter in the village of Cesacoba, Central Africa Rebublic where she...

Two girls run between makeshift shelters in the village of Siwa, Central African Republic, Saturday Feb. 13, 2021. An estimated 240,000 people have be...

The streets of Bangassou, Central African Republic, remain empty on Saturday Feb. 13, 2021, as most residents fled when rebels attacked with heavy wea...

Sebaste Kondo, 57, shows the scar in his back, left by a bullet that remained lodged there since 2018, in the Central African Republic village of Cesa...

Saint-Cyr Boussa smokes a cigarette, surrounded by his brothers in the village of Cesacoba, Central African Republic, Sunday Feb. 14, 2021. "We ran aw...

Moroccan UN peacekeepers patrol the town of Bangassou, Central African Republic, Monday Feb. 15, 2021. An estimated 240,000 people have been displaced...

39-years-old merchant Oumar Youssouf, is photographed at the Apostolic Seminary where he seeked shelter in Bangassou, Central African Republic, Tuesda...

Jeremy Kowomando, 32, and his 14-large family, cross the Mbomou river back into Bangassou, Central African Republic, from Ndu in the Democratic Republ...

An unidentified woman carries her belongings on her head after crossing the Mbomou river back into Bangassou, Central African Republic, from Ndu in th...

Moroccan UN peacekeepers patrol Bangassou, Central African Republic, Sunday Feb. 14, 2021. An estimated 240,000 people have been displaced in the coun...

Pierrette Benguere, Prefect of the Mbomou area, is photographed in her house in Bangassou, Central African Republic, Monday Feb. 15, 2021. Benguere, w...

BANGASSOU, Central African Republic (AP) — Monique Moukidje fled her home in Central African Republic’s town of Bangassou in January when rebels attacked with heavy weapons, the fighting killing more than a dozen people.

“I ran away because the bullets have no eyes,” the 34-year-old said sitting in the shade while waiting for water purification tablets, a tarp, and other supplies to help her in Mbangui-Ngoro, a village where she and hundreds of other displaced people are sheltering.

She is among an estimated 240,000 people displaced in the country since mid-December, according to U.N. relief workers, when rebels calling themselves the Coalition of Patriots for Change launched attacks, first to disrupt the Dec. 27 elections and then to destabilize the newly-elected government of President Faustin Archange Touadera. The rebels’ fighting has enveloped the country and caused a humanitarian crisis in the already unstable nation.

Hundreds of thousands of people are also left without basic food or health care, and with the main roads between Central African Republic and Cameroon closed for almost two months, prices have skyrocketed leaving families unable to afford food.

The rebels control nearly two-thirds of the country, making it difficult to deliver humanitarian aid. Aid delivery was stopped for nearly a month in some zones.

“The most pressing needs are on the axis (the main roads),” says Marco Doneda, project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders based in Bangassou, on the country’s southeastern border with Congo.

When rebels left Bangassou in mid-January, after an ultimatum from the United Nations peacekeeping force, some established their bases in nearby towns, like in Niakari, about 17 kilometers (10 miles) from Bangassou. Doctors Without Borders has been trying to reach the populations there with mobile clinics since then, but they have been prevented by the possibility of military action or unpredictable fighting between the rebels and the army.

Along the main supply road from Cameroon to Bangui, Central African Republic’s capital, and in Bambari and Bossangoa, the government forces and its Rwandan and Russian allies have led drives against the rebel forces in the past two weeks.

The impact of violence and the lack of humanitarian access is visible in Siwa, a camp for internally displaced people, a few kilometers (miles) from Bangassou.

Hundreds of people must rely only on filthy brown water to drink, cook, and clean. They are living in makeshift shelters made of leaves and branches from palm trees. No toilets have been built and food distribution only arrived six weeks after the camp was created.

A displaced man hopes his wife will receive treatment and psychological support after she was raped by armed men.

“I didn’t have the strength to defend my wife,” he said. “I’m a farmer. I don’t have the means to bring her to Bangassou for treatment, but I’m worried, I can’t leave her like this. Her body is not wounded, but in her mind, she is not all right.” The Associated Press does not name victims of sexual violence.

Central African Republic’s instability erupted into fighting in Bangui in 2013 when the Seleka rebels coming from the north seized power from then-President Francois Bozize.

Later that year, the Seleka government was challenged by a militia group that formed in response and called themselves the anti-Balaka. Fighting spiraled, with targeted attacks that left thousands dead in the capital and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

The newly formed rebel coalition includes armed groups from both the ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka.

The Seleka rebel president eventually stepped aside amid international pressure and an interim government organized democratic elections in 2016, which Touadera won.

Touadera won re-election to a second term in December with 53% of the vote, but he continues to face opposition from forces linked to ex-president Bozize, who was disqualified from taking part in the presidential vote. Much of the recent violence began after the courts rejected his candidacy before the Dec. 27 elections.

Residents of Central African Republic are discouraged by the country’s years of violence and insecurity.

“We really moved backward,” said Pierrette Benguere, prefect of the Mbomou area that includes Bangassou. “It is discouraging to see my country having to start over again with the negotiations we’ve been holding on and off since 2003.”


Updated : 2021-04-22 05:17 GMT+08:00