Thousands flee rebel violence in Central African Republic

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Adrienne Surprenant / Collectif Item

An 80-years-old woman who requested to remain anonymous sits in her makeshifts shelter in the village of Cesacoba, Central African Republic, Sunday Feb. 14, 2021. "Here, I'm fearful, I don't feel secure, but I don't have the strength to move away. And all my children died," said the woman who fled Bangassou, when rebels attacked with heavy weapons. An estimated 240,000 people have been displaced in the country since mid-December, according to U.N. relief workers, when rebels calling themselves the Coalition of Patriots for Change launched attacks, causing a humanitarian crisis in the already unstable nation. (AP Photo/Adrienne Surprenant)

BANGASSOU – Monique Moukidje fled her home in Central African Republic’s town of Bangassou in January when rebels attacked with heavy weapons, the fighting killing more than a dozen people.

“I ran away because the bullets have no eyes,” the 34-year-old said sitting in the shade while waiting for water purification tablets, a tarp, and other supplies to help her in Mbangui-Ngoro, a village where she and hundreds of other displaced people are sheltering.

She is among an estimated 240,000 people displaced in the country since mid-December, according to U.N. relief workers, when rebels calling themselves the Coalition of Patriots for Change launched attacks, first to disrupt the Dec. 27 elections and then to destabilize the newly-elected government of President Faustin Archange Touadera. The rebels’ fighting has enveloped the country and caused a humanitarian crisis in the already unstable nation.

Hundreds of thousands of people are also left without basic food or health care, and with the main roads between Central African Republic and Cameroon closed for almost two months, prices have skyrocketed leaving families unable to afford food.

The rebels control nearly two-thirds of the country, making it difficult to deliver humanitarian aid. Aid delivery was stopped for nearly a month in some zones.

“The most pressing needs are on the axis (the main roads),” says Marco Doneda, project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders based in Bangassou, on the country’s southeastern border with Congo.

When rebels left Bangassou in mid-January, after an ultimatum from the United Nations peacekeeping force, some established their bases in nearby towns, like in Niakari, about 17 kilometers (10 miles) from Bangassou. Doctors Without Borders has been trying to reach the populations there with mobile clinics since then, but they have been prevented by the possibility of military action or unpredictable fighting between the rebels and the army.

Along the main supply road from Cameroon to Bangui, Central African Republic’s capital, and in Bambari and Bossangoa, the government forces and its Rwandan and Russian allies have led drives against the rebel forces in the past two weeks.