International groups and mission organizations, including Bible translation teams working in the Central African Republic, are fleeing the troubled nation as escalating fighting threatens expatriate staff. Wycliffe Associates decided to evacuate its foreign workers this month after fighters looted and pillaged its team’s work.
Violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) escalated Sept.8 as clashes between the current president’s forces and alleged supporters of ousted President Francois Bozize killed nearly 100 people.
Doctors Without Borders, a humanitarian organization, reported that fighting continued on Sept. 9, in the village of Bouca, 62 miles from Bossangoa. The Associated Press reported that 60 people were killed in recent conflicts there, just north of the nation’s capital. Residents reported that 30 armed men loyal to the former president attacked the town and a former rebel camp. Doctors Without Borders said six children were wounded in the attack and residents fled into the countryside after their homes were set ablaze.
“I saw seven dead, including four traders,” Josue Mbetigaza, a resident who fled town after the fighting started, told Reuters. “Shops and houses were torched.”
Violence intensified after rebel forces overthrew CAR’s government in March and captured Bangui, the nation’s capital. The alliance of militant groups, called Seleka, has thousands of fighters and—according to church leaders—ties to Islamic jihadists who target Christians and their churches. The growing crisis in the land-locked country, which stretches from West Africa to South Sudan and is nearly the size of Texas, was largely ignored outside of Africa until recent reports of increased violence. The U.N. warned that CAR was in danger of becoming a failed state just last month.
“Over the past months, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated dramatically and has shifted from being a long-term crisis of poverty and chronic vulnerability to a complex emergency …” U.N. humanitarian chief Valeria Amos announced. “The failure to act now could not only prolong and exacerbate the appalling conditions… but could also see the crisis spread beyond its borders and throughout a region already facing enormous challenges.”
CAR borders six other countries, and Cameroon closed its border with the unstable nation last month. Thousands of people have fled CAR to neighboring countries, with over 13,000 refugees fleeing to Chad alone. The U.N. Refugee Agency reports 62,000 refugees have fled CAR since last September.
While interim President Michael Djotodia has addressed recent attacks by removing his military chief of staff, whether any action on his or the government’s part will have an effect on the violence remains to be seen.