Category Archives: Central Africa

Last Chadian troops leave Central African Republic

BBC

CAR conflict: Chad says all its troops withdrawn

Chadian peacekeepers in CAR Chadian troops made up a sizeable part of the African Union’s contingent in CAR

Chad’s entire contingent of peacekeepers has withdrawn from the Central African Republic (CAR), a military official has confirmed.

The withdrawal followed accusations that Chad had aided Muslim rebels in CAR, a charge it denied.

Chad had about 850 soldiers in a 6,000-strong African Union (AU) force battling to end conflict between Christian and Muslim militias.

The UN Security Council voted last week to send 12,000 troops CAR.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has warned of “ethno-religious cleansing” in CAR, with lynchings, decapitations and sexual violence going unpunished.

France has 2,000 troops working alongside the AU force.

‘Malicious’

“The last soldier crossed the border on 13 April,” Souleyman Adam, the Chadian commander in CAR, said, AFP news agency reports.

An anti-Balaka fighter in Bangui, CAR (14 December 2013) Anti-balaka militia members say they are avenging the killing of Christians

Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno ordered the pullout after a UN investigation found that Chadian troops “opened fire on the population without any provocation” in the capital, Bangui, on 29 March.

Thirty people were killed and another 300 were injured in the shooting, according to the UN.

Chad’s foreign ministry dismissed the findings as “malicious”, and said Chadian troops were being blamed for “all the suffering in CAR”.

CAR exploded into religious conflict last year after Muslim rebel leader, Michel Djotodia, seized power in the mainly Christian country.

Mr Djotodia resigned in January under diplomatic pressure, but violence between Christian and Muslim militia groups has continued.

Thousands have been killed in the conflict and tens of thousands more have fled the country.

The UN says that about 1.3 million people – a quarter of the population – are in need of aid.

South Sudan army admits losing Unity state’s Bentiu to rebel forces

Sudan Tribune


 (JUBA) – A South Sudanese government official has officially admitted that rebel forces were “in control” of Bentiu, the strategic oil-rich capital of Unity state.

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South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar gestures as he talks to his men in Jonglei January 31, 2014 (Reuters Goran Tomasevic)

“They (rebels) are inside Bentiu now. It is under their complete control,” Unity state’s deputy governor, Stephen Mabek Lang told reporters Tuesday.

The official, in close contact with government troops on the ground, said the army pulled out after a commanding officer allegedly withdrew without notifying his forces.

“This unfortunate development discouragement reinforcement from other areas, Mabek told group of government officials who came to pick and rushed him to his accommodation. We will talk. Let me go and rest,” he said at Juba airport.

Military sources claimed fighters under the command of Maj. Gen. Puljang Mathews withdrew from Rubkona on Tuesday without their knowledge making it possible for the rebels to quickly penetrate parts of the town without facing any armed resistance.

It is still unclear whether the commanding officer remained on one part of the town fighting on the government side or withdrew together with pro-government troops.

Gordon Buay, spokesperson of the former rebel faction to which Maj. Gen Puljang belonged prior to accepting presidential amnesty and becoming part of the government-allied forces, clarified that the latter was within the area and did not defect.

“Puljang did not defect. What happened is a negligent from Bilpam because they failed to take ammunition to our forces in Bentiu,” Buay told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.

He insistently the commanding officer was somewhere in Bentiu fighting for the government.

South Sudan’s army (SPLA) spokesperson, however, said fighting was still continuing in Bentiu, despite the rebels and some government officials confirming it’s recapture.

“The information we have from our forces on the ground is that fighting is still continuing. The rebels have attempted to penetrate the town through one part of the town but they are being pushed away,” Phillip Aguer told reporters on Tuesday.

“Our forces are still inside the town fighting,” he added, revising his earlier remarks that the SPLA repulsed a rebel attempt enter Bentiu town on Monday and controlled it.

Government forces have recaptured several rebel-held areas and border towns in recent months, closing off supply routes from neigbouring countries and securing the main artery leading west from Wau town, capital of western Bahr el Ghazal, via Mayom county to Bentiu.

(ST)

Central African Republic – thousands flee gun battle as Chadians withdraw

Reuters

Thousands flee gun battle as Chad withdraw from Central African Republic

BANGUI Wed Apr 16, 2014 12:35am BST

Internally displaced people wait for food distribution by a foreign non-governmental organization (NGO) in the town of Boda April 15, 2014. REUTERS-Goran Tomasevic
People sit on a car as they drive near Bangui April 14, 2014. REUTERS-Goran Tomasevic

1 of 4. Internally displaced people wait for food distribution by a foreign non-governmental organization (NGO) in the town of Boda April 15, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

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BANGUI (Reuters) – Thousands fled a gun battle between Chadian troops escorting a convoy of Muslim civilians and local militia in Central African Republic, Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Tuesday, as Chad completed a withdrawal of soldiers from its violence-ravaged neighbour.

Central African Republic has descended into chaos since the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition seized power a year ago. Its abuses on the majority Christian population triggered waves of revenge attacks, leading to thousands of deaths and displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians, including the majority of the country’s Muslims.

The Chadian troops were escorting the last 540 Muslim residents of the north-western town of Bossangoa to Gore in Chad when militia attacked the convoy at night on April 11 as it passed through Boguila, around 310 miles (500 km) north of the capital Bangui.

The Chadian soldiers fought back, and three wounded were later admitted to MSF facilities in Boguila and Paoua.

“We witnessed the majority of the population fleeing in panic to the bush,” Stefano Argenziano, MSF head of mission in the country, said in a statement on Tuesday, estimating that around 7,000 people were displaced in the clash.

“We are worried that the gun battle may have resulted in more people being injured. For the moment we cannot access the area to verify if this is the case and evacuate the wounded,” Argenziano said.

The United Nations said earlier this month it was trying to urgently evacuate 19,000 Muslims from Bangui and other parts of Central African Republic who are surrounded by anti-balaka Christian militia threatening their lives.

Chadian troops, at the heart of African efforts to stabilise the country, have escorted convoys carrying tens of thousands of Muslims.

N’Djamena began withdrawing its troops from Central African Republic’s African Union peacekeeping mission, known as MISCA, earlier this month, however, following a series of violent incidents including an attack on a market that killed 30 civilians.

MISCA officers confirmed on Tuesday that Chad had competed its withdrawal and the AU mission and soldiers from a French intervention force had replaced them.

“They left with all their kit without waiting to be relieved,” said a MISCA commander whose Congolese troops had replaced the Chadians in the towns of Kabo and Batangafo.

The United Nations Security Council last week authorized the creation of a nearly 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic in a bid to end the violence. The U.N. operation will assume authority on September 15 from the 5,600-strong MISCA force. Reuters

 

Rwanda’s famous singer, Kizito Mihigo, and journalist, Cassien Ntamuhanga, arrested

BBC

FDLR rebels (file photo) Some FDLR leaders took part in the 1994 genocide, before fleeing to what is now DR Congo

One of Rwanda’s best-known musicians and a leading journalist have been arrested and accused of links to an opposition group and rebels.

Cassien Ntamuhanga, the director of a Christian radio station, was arrested on Monday, a police statement said.

Singer Kizito Mihigo was picked up on Friday.

They are accused of links to both the South Africa-based Rwanda National Congress (RNC) and Hutu rebels, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The RNC was co-founding by Patrick Karegeya, who was found dead in South Africa on New Year’s Day.

His allies and family, and South Africa, blame Rwanda’s government, which denies responsibility.

Mr Ntamuhanga had been reported missing, reports the AFP news agency.

The police accuse the pair, along with former soldier Jean Paul Dukuzumuremyi, of planning “terrorist attacks”, with the aim to overthrow the government, to assassinate government officials and to incite violence.

They were alleged to be working with the FDLR rebels, some of whose leaders took part in the 1994 genocide, in which some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

BBC Great Lakes editor Ally Yusuf Mugenzi says Mr Mihigo used to be close to the governing Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and his arrest has come as a surprise to many Rwandans.

President Paul Kagame came to power as the genocide ended.

He has been hailed for driving rapid economic growth but human rights groups accuse him of not tolerating dissent. BBC

Zamva – Sata’s constitutional games

African Arguments

Zambia: Sata’s constitutional tricks risk electoral backlash – By Arthur Simuchoba

Zambia-Sata-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sudden about turn by the Zambian President Michael Sata on enacting a new constitution has not only eroded his credibility but is galvanizing the kind of opposition that could see him lose office in the 2016 general election. He obviously senses the danger and has mounted some rear-guard actions.

The Catholic FM radio for eastern Zambia recently reported on March 30th of a homily by the Catholic bishop of eastern Zambia, the Rt.-Rev George Lungu in which he disclosed that he had received an angry and threatening telephone call from the president who warned him to stay clear of the constitution debate or else…

His government has, in contravention of the terms of reference (which called for the simultaneous release of the draft to the administration and the public), withheld publication of the final draft constitution and there is mounting pressure for its release.  The president appears to have been alarmed by a “successful” meeting of an NGO Coalition at a parish in Chipata, the Eastern Province capital to press for the immediate release of the draft.  The meeting had the blessing of the bishop who maintains that people have the right to make that demand.

There is a strong view in Zambia that distortions and other shortcomings in previous constitutions resulted from the administration having the last word on their drafting. This time, to ensure that history did not repeat itself, the government would not have a veto. Instead, the draft would be submitted to a referendum.

The last minute failure by the government to uphold that path was met with widespread disappointment and anger.   Government has become increasingly furtive and is attempting to manufacture doubt over the issue, when none should exist. For instance, following the “dismissal” of the drafting committee at the end of March, it was not clear what the state of play now was: while the committee said it had handed over the draft to the Justice Ministry; the Ministry repeatedly denied that this had taken place.

The shifting of goal posts has been damaging and has discredited the president like no other issue – when he was in opposition he was the champion of a new constitution. He was also a vocal critic of the current constitution and repeatedly promised to bring to a swift conclusion the tortuous constitution-making process (on-going since 2003).

He seemed on track when in one of his earliest actions in office he appointed a drafting committee headed by the former Chief Justice, Annel Silungwe. In his more extravagant moments, Mr.Sata had promised a new constitution within 90 days! In practice, the final draft was ready only last October.

But as the release was imminent, the president changed tack. He now forbade publication of the draft altogether and further decreed that only ten copies be printed.

His position shifted to there being no hurry because there was, after all, a constitution in force. He has also claimed that the process has been hijacked:

“The constitution-making process has been hijacked by individuals whose objective is to embarrass, humiliate and politically undermine the public will…It will be highly irresponsible for us… to authorize the release of this document before it goes through cabinet…the country already has a functional constitution and the state will not be pushed into fast and reckless conclusions…” he said.

The ready retort from the NGOs was that it was he who had hijacked it. The President went further on February 13th when he ordered that those calling for a new constitution should be ignored:

“Ignore those who are talking about it every day. We already have a constitution,” he said.

The volte-face was astonishing. Speculation is that there is discomfort with the new requirement that presidential candidates should garner 50%+1 vote to be elected and with the new provision for ministers be appointed from outside parliament.

His erstwhile allies the NGOs were outraged by his change of heart. They insisted that he should be made to keep his election promise and immediately began to mobilize public support for the release of the draft and the appointment of a referendum commission.

On January 4th, a consortium of NGOs launched the campaign at a prayer meeting in the Anglican Cathedral in Lusaka which was promptly ringed by riot-ready police. Under Mr. Sata, the police have been transformed into his first line of defence against political opposition and dissent.

Police have disallowed virtually every planned public meeting of the opposition and have been quick to arrest opposition leaders on questionable grounds. Last Christmas, for instance, Nevers Mumba who leads the opposition Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD), was arrested amidst a show of force by the police who proceeded to lock him up for the night. But in court, the state offered no evidence and instead applied for the matter to be discontinued!

Since the Cathedral meeting, the NGOs have continued to mobilize. They have growing public support and the authorities seem increasingly nervous.

The incident with the bishop betrayed a new level of desperation. Mr. Sata is a practicing Catholic and would not have wanted to once more cross swords with Bishop Lungu so soon after their protracted face-off over the deportation in 2012 of a Rwandan priest.

Fr. Viateur Banyandora was picked up from his parish, driven to Lusaka by night, classified a “danger to good order ”on the basis of a homily he had delivered and was promptly thrown out of Zambia.

The Church refused to accept the deportation and bishop Lungu, who led the charge, maintained that it was no more than abduction. In a major climb down, the deportation was rescinded and the priest is back. But for the growing pressure from the campaign, the president would most likely have preferred to have kept his distance.

His attempts to discredit it as a “misplaced crusade” have not worked. It is strengthening. At the end of February, it received free publicity when on two consecutive days, opposition MPs disrupted proceedings in the national assembly as they demanded clarity on the constitution. There could be no downplaying the unprecedented protest that resonated outside the House.

Going forward, government plans are unclear. But the scales are such that credit for any forward movement will go to the NGOs, while distrust for the government is more likely to deepen.

For a president who was elected on only 43% of the vote, Mr. Sata may have shot himself in the foot, perhaps mortally.

Arthur Simuchoba is a Zambian journalist. This article was commission via the African Journalism Fund.   AA

DR Congo militia leader organ killed

Reuters

Congo militia chief ‘Morgan’ killed in army firefight – government

KINSHASA  (Reuters) – A militia leader accused of kidnap, rape and cannibalism in Democratic Republic of Congo was killed on Monday alongside four other people during a firefight as he sought to escape his army captors, the government said.

Paul Sadala, a poacher-turned-militia leader known as “Morgan” who operated in Congo’s Orientale province, surrendered on Saturday with around 40 of his followers.

He was being brought by the army to the town of Bunia when he attacked the soldiers escorting him, government spokesman Lambert Mende told Reuters.

“He caused a shootout which resulted in the deaths of two army soldiers and two of his own men. He tried to flee but suffered a serious injury,” he said.

Mende said that Morgan was taken by helicopter for treatment but died on the way from excessive bleeding.

Morgan has repeatedly attacked populations in the Okapi Fauna Reserve, a World Heritage site, since 2012.

U.N. experts said in December he switched his focus from poaching elephants to attacking gold mines. They accuse him and his men of kidnapping people to carry looted goods and of forcing women into being sexual slaves for militia members.

They said in another report last July that former captives had told them the group, known as “Mai Mai Morgan”, had engaged in cannibalism on several occasions.

Morgan’s militia is just one part of a complex and deadly network of armed groups in Congo’s lawless east. Most of these groups finance their operations by competing for control of Congo’s vast deposits of minerals, including gold, diamonds, tin, copper and coltan.

In November, the Congolese army, alongside U.N. peacekeeping troops, defeated the main M23 rebel group, seen as the greatest threat to President Joseph Kabila in more than a decade.

The government has had an arrest warrant out for Morgan since November 2012 on charges of war crimes and crimes of sexual violence.

Government spokesman Mende said earlier on Monday that not all of Morgan’s followers had surrendered and urged them to do so. Morgan’s group operates deep in the jungle, a long way from where M23 was based, and its numbers are not known.  reuters

 

South Sudan – heavy fighting in Unity State

Sudan Tribune


April 14, 2014 (KAMPALA) – Rebel spokesperson Peter Riek Gew says forces from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) loyal to president Salva Kiir attacked their hideout in the north of Unity state on Sunday night.

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A South Sudanese government soldier stands in front of a vehicle in South Sudan’s Unity State on 12 January 2014 (AP)

However, he claims rebels defended their positions and have captured an oil field, about 35km from the state capital, Bentiu.

The incident is the latest blow to a ceasefire deal signed between the South Sudanese government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition.

“We have been respecting [the] ceasefire agreement for so long but the SPLA never do that. We have managed to repulse [a] twin attack launched by [the] SPLA on us that led to our gallant forces – SPLA in Opposition – to capture Tor-abieth, Tharwangyiela, kilo 30 (Sikasik) which is known as Kubur Nyabol,” said Gew told Sudan Tribune phone, adding that rebel troops were now advancing towards the capital.

Many residents have fled Bentiu over the past three days amid fears of imminent rebel attacks.

On Sunday, government forces blocked some people from entering a UN protection site at Rubkotna.

Sources inside the UNMISS camp in Bentiu town told Sudan Tribune by phone on Monday morning that the sound of heavy gunfire could be heard outside.

“We are hearing artillery shelling and numbers of civilians are running inside [the] UN camp,” said an aid worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Last week, former vice-president turned rebel leader Riek Machar said he intended to launch mass attacks targeting oil fields.

He said the move was designed to stop the flow of oil money, which it claims is being used by the Juba administration to “rent” foreign forces.

Unity state has changed hands several times since political tensions erupted in violence in the nation’s capital, Juba, in mid-December last year.

The conflict, which has since spread throughout the country, has pitted government troops loyal to Kiir against pro-Mahar rebels.

Ongoing peace talks between the warring parties brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has failed to quell the violence, with both sides accusing each other of violating the terms of a ceasefire deal signed on 23 January in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

(ST)

Central African Republic’s Prime MInister says UN committed to help

DW/allAfrica

Central African Republic: Nzapayeke – ‘The UN Is Committed to CAR’

interview

Central African Republic Prime Minister Nzapayeke tells DW he welcomes a UN decision to send 12,000 troops to his country. The peacekeepers will help restore stability and prepare the ground for next year’s elections.

The United Nations Security Council decided unanimously on Thursday (10.04.2014) to send nearly 12,000 peacekeepers to the Central African Republic. They are scheduled to start their mission in mid-September. What is your view of this decision?

The resolution was approved unanimously – that is good news and proves that the international community as a whole has committed to finding a lasting solution to the conflict in the Central African Republic. We are very pleased to see the will is there on the part of the international community to help us.

The government in Chad recently decided to withdraw the 850 soldiers serving as part of the African Union mission to the CAR that was tasked with providing security. Is the Security Council’s decision a consolation for you?

You cannot call it that. This wasn’t a rushed decision made by the UN. It was well prepared, everyone involved carefully considered each step. There was a lot of communication, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Bangui last week. This vote was carefully considered by everyone who voted for it. We are sure of that. It addresses a serious responsibility – not a consolation.

The resolution has been passed, but now the troops need to be mobilized.

Ban Ki-moon promised us during his trip to Bangui that he would do everything he can to get the 12,000 soldiers deployed as quickly as possible. For a long time there has been a plan to evaluate the work of the African Union’s mission to the Central African Republic and consider its further development into a UN mission. That happened and we are very happy about it. We can look ahead with more confidence and more means for the organization of the planned national elections.

Representatives of the CAR at the Security Council called for the UN mission to be entrusted to an African. Is that really important?

It is a detail, but it is an important detail. It would be a message of encouragement to Africa. To show that Africa is taking its future into its own hands and deciding on the path it will go down on its own. We also cannot forget that the African countries in the region and the African Union have been supporting us for a long time ahead of the UN resolution. That is why we think it is fair that this UN mission be led by an African.

Andre Nzapayeke became interim prime minister of the transitional government in the Central African Republic in January 2014. New elections are scheduled to be held in 2015.

 

Central African Republic refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

UN News Service

Central African refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon – UN agency

Central African Republic refugees at the Gbiti transit centre in Cameroon. Photo: UNHCR/M. Poletto

11 April 2014 – The United Nations refugee agency said today it is extremely concerned by reports that anti-Balaka militiamen are blocking and attacking civilians trying to flee violence in the Central African Republic (CAR).

“Over the past two weeks, our colleagues in Cameroon have been seeing refugees arrive with wounds from machetes or gunshots,” Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news briefing in Geneva.

She said UNHCR staff had also seen increasing numbers of people crossing into Cameroon via remote border entry points in an effort to evade the mostly Christian anti-Balaka militias.

“New arrivals told our colleagues that anti-Balaka militias have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing them to wade through the bush for two to three months before reaching the border,” she said. “The refugees also said that the anti-Balaka attacked them during their flight.”

The majority of the new arrivals are women, children and elderly people, and all are Muslims. They told UNHCR staff that the men stayed in CAR to create self-defence groups to protect their community and their cattle.

“UNHCR is calling on the anti-Balaka to stop preventing civilians from fleeing to neighbouring countries for safety. We are also calling on all sides to the conflict to renounce violence,” said Ms. Fleming.

Over 290,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries in search of refuge from the ongoing conflict in CAR, which began in December 2012 with attacks by mainly Muslim Séléka rebels. More than 650,000 are also internally displaced and 2.2 million, about half the population, are in need of humanitarian aid.

UNHCR said that despite the obstacles to their movement, an average of 10,000 people now cross weekly from CAR into eastern Cameroon. With the main entry points at Garoua Boulai and Kenzou no longer accessible due to anti-Balaka activities, people are using alternative routes.

“This has caused the number of entry points into Cameroon to grow from 12 to 27 over last three weeks, making it more challenging for our colleagues to monitor the border,” Ms. Fleming said.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received 69,389 refugees from CAR. This is on top of the 92,000 Centrafricain refugees who have fled in various waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

In a statement yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon renewed his call for an immediate end to the killings, targeted attacks and other atrocious human rights violations that continue with total impunity in CAR.

He also welcomed the establishment by the Security Council of a UN peacekeeping operation in the country, which he hoped will lead to the immediate, concrete and sustainable support that the Central African people need and deserve.  UN – http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47554&Cr=central+african+republic&Cr1=#.U0jxfctOVjo

UN votes to send peacekeepers to Central African Republic

BBC

Central African Republic: UN votes to send peacekeepers

African peacekeeping mission troops known as MISCA, listen to US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power in Bangui (9 April 2014) African troops are battling to contain the conflict which began when the president was toppled in March 2013

The UN Security Council has voted to send a 12,000-strong force to the Central African Republic (CAR).

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has warned of “ethno-religious cleansing” in CAR, with lynchings, decapitations and sexual violence going unpunished.

The UN resolution also authorises some 2,000 French troops to work alongside the UN peacekeepers.

Thousands have been killed, with about 1.3 million people – a quarter of the population – in need of aid.

Muslim civilians are being targeted by militias in revenge for the seizure of power by mainly Muslim rebels last year.

An anti-balaka fighter, member of a militia opposed to the Seleka rebel group, lifts up a machete threatening any Seleka that may attack, on the outskirts of the Boy-Rabe neighbourhood in Bangui on December 14, 2013 Vigilante groups have been targeting Muslims in the capital, Bangui, where Christians make up the majority

France already has 2,000 troops in its former colony alongside a 6,000-strong African Union (AU) force, which would be replaced by the UN mission in September.

The resolution, which was adopted unanimously, authorises French troops to “use all necessary means” to provide support for AU troops.

The French-authored resolution gives the UN force the mandate to protect civilians and humanitarian convoys, maintain order, and support the political transition in CAR, AFP says.

On Wednesday, at least 30 people were killed and another 10 wounded in fighting in the central town of Dekoa, police said.

Predominantly Christian anti-balaka militia members attacked positions held by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels, they said.

CAR exploded into religious violence amid mounting resentment toward a Muslim-led government.

Muslim rebels seized power in March 2013 by overthrowing President Francois Bozize – who had been in power for a decade.

The rebel leader who replaced him, Michel Djotodia, was accused of failing to prevent his forces from raping, torturing and killing civilians – particularly among the country’s Christian majority.

When Mr Djotodia left power under regional pressure in January, Christian militia fighters began attacking Muslim civilians in retaliation.

The country is rich in gold, diamonds and other natural resources but decades of unrest and mismanagement have left most of its people stuck in poverty.

Map showing the location of the Central African Republic and the countries that border it

BBC