On the 10th of December, rebels took over three towns in the north of the country. At the time, no one really knew whether this was cause for serious concern. In what turned out to be quite fortunate timing, I was already planning on going home for the winter holidays. On the 11th, I caught a ride from Bayanga (the village near camp) to Bangui (the capital) on a plane hired by journalists who had just left a town that rebels had entered, but not yet taken over (they eventually did). I flew home the following day. Since then, the rebels have taken over a dozen towns and are only about 45 miles from the capital. The rebels consist of a coalition (the Séléka alliance) of four existing Central African rebel groups and according to some reports, foreign mercenaries and child soldiers. The Séléka rebels claim that they are taking up their arms again because the government has not held up their end of the 2007 peace agreements.
Several countries have sent in troops to support the government and peace talks have just started in nearby Gabon. I don’t have the slightest clue how this will play out. The most significant obstacle to peace that I see is the fact that President Bozizé refuses to step down until he finishes his current term, while the rebels are demanding that he relinquish power as a precondition for peace talks.
News was sparse until late December and there is still disappointingly little information coming out of the country about what the situation is like on the ground. This article is the only one I’ve read that offers an actual analysis of what’s going on. I found this interesting fictional essay written by an African writer that perhaps reflects the general fed-up attitude of Africans towards delusional despots. The quote below from President Bozizé today on why he won’t step down highlights his questionable grasp on reality. Keep in mind that he seized power through a coup, that the 2011 elections were prooobably fraudulent, and that the CAR ranked 144th in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.
“That would be a betrayal of my country. That would betray the people who elected me. This is the defence of democracy, the defence of the constitution. To do nothing says we’re turning to the law of the jungle.”
Until it’s safe for me to return, I am stuck in DC. So… here are some pictures!
Sopo horsing around.
Some elephants whose path we crossed.
Kunga chewing on some kiyeye (all plant names that I know are in Ba’aka, so don’t ask me for the scientific or even English name).
Sopo sits in the lap of Mosoko, his half-sister, while they curiously observe the newborn. Baby Ngombo, full-brother of Mosoko, is on mother’s Malui’s stomach.
Malui, still pregnant here, crossing a stream. This was taken immediately after this video.
Makumba hanging out near Malui and the newborn.
A colorful group of dung-ingesting butterflies.
Bokata, a few feet away from me.
Mobangui (left) and Sopo at play.
A bai before the morning mist cleared.
As much as I am enjoying being back in civilization, I do miss it. Let’s hope things go back to “normal” soon!