August 12, 2014

Two internally displaced persons (IDP) from Bangui, Central African Republic, share their families' stories from a camp in Kabo. They, along with many CAR citizens, have been forced to leave their homes as a result of violence in the area.  

Zenaba:

Zenaba, 45, lost two of her seven children when seeking refuge from the explosion of violence against the Muslim community in Bangui, CAR. She was separated from her husband and another son, who ended up in a refugee camp in Chad. She suffers health problems and has little money to feed their children.

Last April, she had to risk her life and the lives of her family to seek refuge in the PK12 neighborhood in order to escape the confusion created between Seleka group members and ordinary Muslim civilians. Many went to that neighborhood to hide from the threat of machetes at large.

Two of Zenaba’s children, Asabala, 30, and Mahaman, 25, died when they tried to join the rest of the family. The first one tried to hide in the back seat of a Christian friend’s car, but Anti-Balaka militias discovered and executed him. Mahaman attempted it on a motorcycle, but was also intercepted and killed. Their father found the bodies in a ditch hours later.

Zenaba got room for her family in a convoy organized by the Chadian army to evacuate the Muslim population of the capital, but unfortunately she was separated from her husband and one of her children, who were put in a different truck. Along with their other four children she crossed the country towards Kabo amid great distress. The trip was full of surprises—including three births—and the convoy was attacked by Anti-Balaka militias up to the town of Dekoa. Arriving at their destination, Zenaba learned that her husband and son had gone through to Chad. She has not seen them for three months.

Deeply traumatized by the experience, Zenaba went along with her children to the MSF hospital in Kabo. She suffers chronic migraines and back pain, while all her children had to be treated for malaria.

Although she was able to plant a small vegetable garden beside her hut at the IDP camp, Zenaba has to rush the last remaining francs to buy food after prices have quadrupled. She no longer knows how to feed their children. Nevertheless, she doesn’t want to leave her country. 

Abdel:

Abdel Haffis is Muslim, born of a Chadian father and a Central African mother 40 years ago in Bangui, where he had lived all his life. Now, he waits along with his family in an IDP camp in Kabo—in the north of the country—for the reopening of the border with Chad to escape the violence and flee into a land he does not even know.

Abdel was an economics professor in Bangui, where he had eight children with his wife, a Christian. After the violence exploded in CAR in late 2013, he first fled to the sadly famous district of PK12, which became a real ghetto where hundreds of Muslim families escaped the persecution of anti-Balaka groups. In February, a dozen Chadian army trucks offered a way out to safer areas, but the capacity of the vehicles was insufficient to move the number of people seeking to escape. Abdel witnessed horrible scenes, like a mother forced to leave her two-month-old baby when boarding one of the trucks.

Those who stayed had to deal with the violence that exploded in Bangui, and at least 40 people in the neighborhoods PK5 and PK12 were savagely murdered. Finally, in late April, Abdel and his family were able to flee to the northern town of Kabo, an area controlled by the Seleka militias. On the way, the convoy they were travelling in was attacked in Dekoa by rival militiamen who killed four passengers.

After traveling for two days, they arrived to Kabo where they stayed in a UN camp for displaced people. Conditions were very difficult and there are shortages of water and essential goods like food and soap. According to Abdel, a serious problem for the inhabitants of the camp is the extreme rise in the price of basic goods because of the closure of the Chadian border. The situation has even forced some of the displaced to sell their clothes in order to be able to buy some food.

Abdel lives in a small hut made of wood and straw and with a plastic roof. Unlike others, he does not even think of illegally crossing the border so as not to endanger his family. He is just waiting for it to be reopened to run away to a foreign country.