Photographers' Blog

Behind bars in Central African Republic

Bangui, Central African Republic

By Siegfried Modola

Decades of poor governance in Central African Republic followed by over a year of sectarian conflict and chronic insecurity has crippled even the most basic government services in the country.

A new interim government is faced with the mammoth task of resuscitating the nation’s infrastructure while attempting to bring peace and stability, paving the way for presidential elections next year.

As the divide between Christians and Muslims in CAR grows ever deeper – with the U.N.’s head human rights official saying that atrocities are being committed with impunity – it is clear that the transitional government together with the African Union and French peacekeepers are struggling to enforce the rule of law.

 

Brutal acts of violence are committed nearly every day in the streets of Bangui and in other parts of the country. Most of them are left unpunished; there simply isn’t any government manpower to bring those who carry out such crimes to justice.

I decided it was important to visit and document the central prison in Bangui to see how the state was handling the detention of criminals under such difficult circumstances.

In a spiral of violence

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

Bangui, Central African Republic

By Siegfried Modola

I landed in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, for what was going to be the most intense four weeks of my career. I would be covering a sectarian conflict that has left thousands dead and around a million people displaced.

Nothing could have prepared me for the extent of this crisis. I witnessed the cold reality of people fleeing, losing their belongings and being killed because they belonged to a certain religion and found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As soon as we touched the runway at Bangui’s Mpoko International Airport, it was obvious that something was wrong. From the windows of the plane, we had a view of plastic sheets set up as shelters by the United Nations Refugee Agency – an image synonymous with conflict around the world.

Bureaucrats in a conflict zone

Bangui, Central African Republic

By Joe Penney

On Thursday, the volatile Central African Republic was host to a bloodbath. Hours of fighting between the former “Seleka” rebels that took power in a March coup d’etat and local militia and fighters loyal to the deposed president, Francois Bozize, killed over a hundred. As the situation continues to deteriorate, France is set to take a bigger role in its former colony’s security, sending hundreds of troops in the coming days.

Yet while security is what is grabbing the headlines at the moment, CAR’s problems lie much deeper. Already an unstable state in the run-up to the coup, the Central African government is now in tatters and just going through the motions. During the coup, most ministry buildings were looted for cash, computers and anything hungry rebels could get their hands on. Little has since been replaced.

The Seleka rebels stole a computer from a state laboratory containing vital information on HIV patients’ medication. They even stole the minister of commerce’s car.