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.

At this camp, the people I met felt a degree of safety and protection. No one had any intention of returning to their homes yet – it seemed that this crisis was far from over.

As I acclimatised, I built my contacts and tried to grasp the situation. I felt that it was important to do what a photographer does when immersed in a new story: walk, observe, meet new people, and walk some more.