In December of 2012 a rebellion group formed under the name ‘Seleka’ marched through the Central African Republic, threatening to overthrow President François Bozizé for failing to follow through with the promises he made in 2007. Since then their reign has been one of terror and abduction, forcing people who are already living in the throes of poverty to adopt a life of fear and anticipation as well. Bozize has since been chased out of the country and the people of the Central African Republic are too afraid to take action against Seleka.
Translated the word Seleka simply means “coalition” in Sango. In January the group was estimated to have between 1,000 and 3,000 members. It is thought that they are made up of a collection of smaller groups allied together in opposition of the former president. However, government officials believe that the core of Seleka may be made up of a more varied cast of people, suggesting that the are harboring foreigners who wish to take control of the country’s mineral wealth. Some even believe that nationals from Chad, Nigeria, and Sudan are involved.
On March 24, 2013 Michel Djotodia marched into the capital Bangui with 5,000 Seleka fighters to seize control of the country. He immediately disbanded the parliament and suspended the constitution. And since then he and the Seleka fighters have waged a campaign of harassment and terror against the very people they claimed to protect. Unemployment has soared to 70% and the rebels take whatever they want, including computers used for education, solar panels, and even goats. Schools have shut down and electricity has become unavailable to the public.
Now the rebel group is no longer simply stealing from the people they claim to help, they are stealing the people as well. On a daily basis people disappear from their homes, schools, and the street itself. They are picked up by men in trucks and never seen again. If they are, they have been tortured or killed. The economy has collapsed entirely, most people are out of work, international aid workers have fled, and farmers are unable to tend to their fields because of all the violence. The country is on the verge of absolute disaster.
The self-proclaimed president of the country seems to be either unaware or uncaring of the reality of the situation. He is quoted in the New York Times as stating, “Peace has already returned to Bangui. When we came, it was like a miracle. It was God that willed it.” But the reality is that 173,000 people have been displaced from their homes since December. The Central African Republic has always been one of the poorest countries in the world and frequently fraught with conflict.
– Chelsea Evans