GUNS IN ALL HANDS, IN THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
Full time coded transcript
The Central African Republic is one of the most insecure and underreported countries in the world.
(to 00:14, drive by video)
In the mostly lawless north, entire villages are destroyed and emptied out in recurrent fighting.
(to 00:20, emptied village)
Bullet holes pockmark new constructions.
(to 00:25, drive by)
Rebels from different groups stage attacks on main roads, making any drive perilous.
(to 00:30, drive by)
So-called Zaraguinas, former fighters for rebel turned President Francois Bozize, intercept vehicles carrying goods and kidnap pedestrians for ransom, making it unsafe for farmers to go to their fields.
(to 00:45, drive by and empty fields)
Mothers stagger to feeding centers in main cities to give their malnourished newborns a chance to stay alive.
(to 00:53, feeding center)
Displaced people gather for free seeds and food supplies.
(to 00:58, displaced people)
In the village of Kana, men are trying to protect themselves with hunting riffles and magic amulets.
(to 1:05, gun and amulet review)
Every man in this village is part of a so-called self-defense group.
(to 1:12, second gun review)
The militia members have set up a barricade on both ends of Kana, on the main dirt road between the capital Bangui and the north.
(to 1:33, shots of militia going and coming from barricade)
They go on patrol, trying to make the road leading to their fields safe again. They use a style that is all their own.
(to 1:50. shot of patrol)
The village chief shows where he says Zaraguinas recently set up camp.
(to 2:00, shot of village chief showing camp)
He says the Zaraguinas stayed in the nearby bush for several days, before the self-defense group decided to confront them. Villagers say they killed three of the bandits and chased the rest away.
(to 2:24, shots of where the Zaraguinas were pushed out)
People in Kana say they are hoping that with the self-defense group on guard now, attacks will diminish.
(to 2:20, other shot of patrol).
The effect of road banditry is dramatic, according to Toby Lanzer, who was recently the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in the C.A.R.
(to 2:40, shot of village, and other drive by)
TOBY LANZER, UN HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR
“The impact has been devastating. It’s displaced perhaps 100-thousand people. It has cut off communities from their trading routes. It has sent many, many people into neighboring countries. It’s a phenomenon we are taking extremely seriously but it’s difficult to deal with in the sense that ... with whom does one talk? Whom should I contact? It isn’t as though there is a well identified militant opposition group that makes public statements or has a public platform that in a way enables us to engage. We are very far from that and the phenomenon of banditry in this country has had a devastating effect on certain areas of the country.”
(to 3:27, Lanzer talking, as well as video on top of displaced people and groups walking with guns)
The military commander for northern C.A.R. refused to be interviewed for this report or to have his soldiers filmed. He called the self-defense groups, good boys.
(to 3:38, shot of a soldier)
The highest authority in the northwestern region that encompasses Kana, Gabriel Baipo, shows some of the other badly affected areas.
(to 3:49, shot of Gabriel Baipo showing map)
An attack near the border with Chad in November 2008 left a dozen soldiers dead.
(to 3:58, shot of map)
NORTHERN PREFECT GABRIEL BAIPO
“It’s unfortunate these attacks are becoming more frequent. But we are trying to do everything we can That is why we have helped create this system of self-defense to defend villages and other places. It's an initiative which has the backing of the government. We even register the different groups The number of soldiers we have cannot cover the entire region. That's why the government has decided that in each sub-region, town and village, there should be a system of auto-defense to defend their goods. They do this in good standing. If they need certain products, we can help them. We can give them some funding, so they can be comfortable, and so they can buy coffee, milk and other things.”
(to 4:58, video of Baipo talking, as well as shots of self-defense group)
The day before this interview the Kana self-defense group was given ammunition.
(to 5:08, shot of self defense group walking)
It seems the layer of armed groups is getting as thick as the dense vegetation.
(to 5:14, shot of self defense group in front of vegetation)
Villagers, like Jean-Bertrand, a 24-year old who used to be a student in the capital, but came back to protect his family, have few good things to say about the military.
(to 5:30, shot of villager walking and then his house)
KANA VILLAGER, JEAN-BERTRAND
“When soldiers supposedly come to help out with security in the village, it creates more problems. They are supposed to do a good job and protect us. But the military never performs this good role. Instead they come to loot. When we tell them to come to solve a problem, they will add to the problem with looting. They will ask the village chief for animals. They harass Muslim shopkeepers, and they don’t do their work. You realize they are part of the problem as well. If the people of the village ensure their own security, it's much better that way.”
(to 6:16, video of Jean-Bertrand talking, with shots of military on top)
Robert Souleymane is one man hoping he could have gotten some protection when the main northwestern city of Bossangoa was overrun by mercenaries several years ago. (to 6:27, shots of Souleymane showing house)
He shows the house where he says he was taken and gang raped by a group of female Congolese fighters, and infected with HIV.
(to 6:37, shots of house)
WAR VICTIM, ROBERT SOULEYMANE
“I was caught right there by Congolese women. They were wearing fatigues and carrying weapons. They raped me in my house, here, by force. That’s how I got the problem (of HIV). My wife was gone to Chad at the time, and I didn’t know (I was infected). When she came back, we got back together and now, she is contaminated as well.”
(to 7:08, video of Souleymane interview)
Lanzer says the problem of rape remains as prevalent today. He recently tried to defuse a pattern of rape around the northern town of Kaga Bandoro.
(to 7:18, video of the house)
“Along a stretch of road of about 50 kilometers, where the situation was particularly bad, we essentially started going up and down the road and talking with everybody that we could find who had a weapon, who could force himself or herself, onto somebody else, simply by the power of the gun. It was serious. We were approaching in some communities levels of gender-based violence which are often associated with acute situations such as that in Darfur.”
(to 7:50, video of Lanzer interview, with shots of men walking with guns)
The northern town of Birao,on the border with Darfur, was itself torn by conflict last year. Soldiers were accused of attacking certain ethnically-dominated neighborhoods after rebels had taken over for one month but then retreated.
(to 8:09, shots of Birao, and soldiers)
The rebels were finally pushed out with the help of French forces, now acting under the banner of EUFOR, a European Union peacekeeping mission trying to secure areas where Darfurian refugees are living. Commander Thomas Guerin explains his mission.
(to 8:26, shots of French troops, hoisting EUFOR flag, shot of patrol with Darfurian refugees)
EUFOR COMMANDER THOMAS GUERIN
“My mission in Birao is to carry out a safe and secure environment mission. We have to present a deterrent force in the area, patrolling daily in the whole area of responsibility of the detachment.”
(to 8:48, video of Guerin interview with shots of patrol)
But on this day a few kilometers away from their base, as soon as rain started to fall, the French security mission decided it was time to suspend their patrol so they headed back to base.
(to 9:08, shots of patrol and lightning and thunder)
In November 2008, not far from Birao, the town of Sam Ouandja, which usually shelters several thousand Darfurians, was emptied out during a rebel attack, despite the nearby French presence. (to 9:28, shot of empty town)
Human rights activists also accuse the self-defense groups of committing atrocities.
(to 9:32, shot of self-defense group)
In the Central African Republic, it seems citizens are left to fend for themselves, and that they have to deal with more armed groups, rather than fewer.
(to 10:00, shot of self-defense group)