A Bad New Year for Thousands Struck By Violence in CAR
Written by Bruno Djoyo
A wave of newly displaced people with harrowing tales has filled the streets of Paoua in the prefecture of Ouham-Pendé after an upsurge of violence in that part of the Central African Republic (CAR). The World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food assistance to more than 70,000 people in the area. Here are the stories of the people behind these numbers.
Paoua, located 479 km northwest of Bangui, had been a relatively quiet part of war-torn CAR until last December, when violent clashes erupted between the members of the RJ (Revolution Justice) group and the fighters of the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MNLC).
The impact on civilians was immediate.
“I started the year 2018 in tears and mourning because my father was murdered on 1st January on the Bémal bridge 52 km from Paoua” says Celestine Ngaouram, a 20-year-old mother of two children.
“My father who was the head of the village Béboura 1 could not get a funeral worthy of his rank, because his remains were devoured by pigs” says Celestine, the tone bruised by what she experienced.
Similar tales of woe fill the streets of the town. Marvin Ngaro, aged 36, lost his father who was also a village chief. Marvin says his father was shot dead while in in his farm by men on horseback 34 km from Paoua.
“We could not go collect his body to bury him decently because of these bloody clashes,” says Marvin.
The direct consequence of these attacks is an influx of people to Paoua. These men, women and children roam the streets bearing the stigma of suffering on their faces, desperate for humanitarian assistance.
WFP has started series of distributions to assist more than 70,000 people. The teams are working around the clock power to get the maximum amount of supplies into Paoua to assist the displaced people.
“I have finally been able to feed my two daughters thanks to the food we received from WFP,” says Celestine who was at a food distribution. “Seeing my kids satiated, comforts me despite the tragedy we are experiencing.”
“ I can assure you that many families were going to starve had WFP not distributed this food,” says Marvin with a smile on his face and a bag of rice on his head.
As WFP teams in Paoua provide lifesaving assistance they are also filled with regrets about the disruption of projects they were running for long-term food security in the area. For two years now, 8 percent of WFP’s activities to support smallholder farmers and encourage agriculture as a business through its Purchase for Progress scheme have been implemented in this area. Paoua was developing into the peanut and bean granary of the CAR.
“It is a sad situation because this was one of the most stable offices where WFP roll-out its resilience projects in CAR,” says Mahoua Coulibaly, the head of the sub-office of Paoua. “Alas, the current situation is dashing all these hopes.”
Not far from the distribution site, a group of young men are fighting to recover empty oil cartons with the WFP logo.
“At nightfall, these boxes will serve as a mat and bed under the tree where my parents and I spend the night,” said Isaac, the winner of the battle for empty cartons. This is also the reality of this city since this return to violence.