“Heavy gunfire in Zemio. Impossible to go out. They have cut the phones and we can’t go out — it’s just too dangerous. So I am posting on Facebook.” – Father Jean-Alain Zembi, Zemio, CAR
On June 28, 2017, a clash between a local defense group and a group of armed fighters occurred in Zemio, a community in southeastern Central African Republic (CAR). Early on in the fighting, phone networks in the community went down, making High Frequency (HF) radios like those used in our Early Warning Radio Network one of the only ways for the community to share information with the outside world. Two days into the fighting, Father Jean-Alain Zembi, a priest in Zemio and one of few there with access to WiFi, began posting his account of the fighting on social media.
For the next several days our Early Warning Radio Network continued to report on the violence in Zemio. By the time a team of United Nations aid workers arrived on July 3, at least 11 people had been killed in the fighting, dozens of homes had been burned and more than 1500 people were seeking refuge at Father Zembi’s church, and thousands more had fled the city to escape the violence.
Help stop armed group violence against communities like Zemio. We’ve set a goal to raise $5000 by July 21 to fund locally-led programs like our Early Warning Radio Network and local Peace Committees that help make families in central Africa safer from violence from armed groups.
The incident Father Zembi witnessed is just one in an alarming upward trend in violence in areas of eastern CAR that previously experienced relative calm. The uptick in violence began in March, when simmering tensions between groups associated with Seleka, a disbanded alliance of armed groups who carried out a coup in 2013, and the anti-balaka, local self-defense militias formed in response to Seleka-related violence, came to a boil. In April, U.S. and Ugandan military forces pursuing Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) leaders announced they would begin withdrawing troops from the region, opening up a security vacuum which is now allowing ex-Seleka and anti-balaka militias to expand violence further east as we see happening today.
In just the last few weeks, at least 136 people have been killed in the central African city of Bria. Further south, anti-balaka militias launched a series of increasingly bold attacks on the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, killing six peacekeepers since May. Attacks on Zemio in the last few weeks alone have killed more than twenty people, including a baby girl who was shot in her mother’s arms inside of a hospital.
In the midst of this crisis, our team on the ground continues to work to ensure that families in this region have the tools they need to prevent, report, and recover from violence. As our Early Warning Radio Network continues to track reports of violence, our team is helping to provide support and training on conflict mediation and trauma-healing to locally-led Peace Committees that bring diverse members of communities together to develop solutions that make their community stronger, more unified, and more resilient to armed group violence.
Reports from our Early Warning Radio Network in eastern CAR make clear that our political leaders must act quickly to ensure UN peacekeepers have the resources necessary to protect Central Africans from armed group attacks. In order to ensure improvements to security are sustained over the long term, they must be complemented with community-based efforts to prevent further inter-communal violence and ensure families are equipped to recover from trauma.
Help our team continue to provide communities with the tools they need to report, prevent, and recover from violence. With your support, communities in our Early Warning Radio Network can continue to report on violent incidents as they happen, Invisible Children supported Peace Committees can continue to unify their communities and prevent further violence, and members of affected communities can participate in trauma healing workshops that will help their families recover together for a more hopeful future.
Below are some of the more recent reports we’ve received showing a clear trend in sectarian violence carried out by ex-Seleka, anti-balaka, and armed members of the Peuhl community in southeastern CAR.
To stay up to date on real-time reports from our Early Warning Radio Network, check out LRACrisisTracker.com.
June 28, 2017 | Zemio, Haut-Mbomou, CAR
Armed members of the Peuhl community clashed with local self-defense militias in Zemio, CAR. A number of households in the Bangui M’Poko neighborhood were burned and at least 11 civilians were killed during the incident.
June 26, 2017 | Mboki, Haut-Mbomou, CAR
Armed men from the Peuhl community and FACA security forces exchanged fire over the course of two days in Mboki, CAR. The clashes resulted in the death of 2 soldiers and 3 civilians. Following the clashes, some residents of Mboki fled towards Obo, CAR.
June 21, 2017 | Tabane, Haut-Mbomou, CAR
Armed men, reportedly from the Peuhl community, attacked the Tabane, CAR, and burned down houses.
June 21, 2017 | Zemio, Haut-Mbomou, CAR
Armed men, reportedly from the Peuhl community, attacked Bogou, CAR. The assailants reportedly killed 2 men and injured a third one. They also burned down many houses in the community.
June 18, 2017 | Zemio, Haut-Mbomou, CAR
Around 12:00, gunshots were heard near Zemio, CAR. A few hours later, around 15:00, 12 armed men from the Peuhl community reportedly attacked the AIM neighborhood, creating panic and forcing community members to flee into the bush.
June 11, 2017 | Bakouma, Mbomou, CAR
A group of ex-Seleka fighters (FPRC) attacked Bakouma, CAR. They reportedly burned a number of households and killed eight people, including two elderly people unable to flee the town.
June 11, 2017 | Zemio, Haut-Mbomou, CAR
A group of armed Peuhls ambushed 5 travelers near Guibere, CAR. The victims were traveling on 3 motorcycles. The first motorbike managed to escape the ambush but the other two were stopped by the assailants. 2 men were shot in the arm.
June 08, 2017 | Tabane, Haut-Mbomou, CAR
Armed Peuhls attacked the community of Tabane, CAR, and clashed with members of a local self-defense group.
June 06, 2017 | Nzako (Near Yalinga), Mbomou, CAR
Ex-Seleka fighters (UPC) and a local self-defense group (anti-balaka) clashed in Nzako, CAR. 18 civilians were killed and a number of households were burnt. Some civilians have fled the village and are hiding in the bush around Nzako.
June 06, 2017 | Tabane, Haut-Mbomou, CAR
Armed Peuhls ambushed 3 motorcyclists on their way to Dembia, CAR. The assailants had AK-47s and wore civilian clothing. 2 motorbikes were burnt by the assailants.