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‘I Can Still Smell the Dead’: Central African Republic's crisis worsens

Virtually unnoticed in September amid news of back-to-school sales and Miley Cyrus twerking at the Video Music Awards was a report released by Human Rights Watch called “I Can Still Smell the Dead.”

The 79-page report outlines the worsening humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic, where rebels seized the capital in March and overthrew the president. In the ensuing violence and chaos, thousands of people have been left in desperate need of assistance. The report, based on research conducted in the country from April to June, confirmed the “deliberate destruction of more than 1,000 homes” and the “deliberate killing of scores of civilians—including women, children, and the elderly.”

Rebel soldiers in northern Central African Republic.

The report also found, among other things, that the overwhelming majority of attacks against civilians in 2013 “were committed in Seleka-held territory—including by very young fighters, possibly child soldiers around 13 years old.”

Seleka forces, an armed coalition of three major rebel groups, are believed responsible for much of the violence against civilians, including countrywide looting, destruction of homes, rape and other forms of sexualized violence, and recruitment of children into armed groups, the report said.

The report breaks down the attacks by village, by province, and by date, and features several interviews with survivors. One woman, a mother of three, told HRW about being assaulted by Seleka fighters on April 14:

“I was at home with my children when a large number of armed men arrived in pick-up vehicles in front of my house. Three of them came into my house, pointed their rifles at me, tied me up in front of my children, and raped me. After they had raped me, they looted my house and left. I’m now alone with my children. My husband abandoned me the day after the rape. I feel pains in my body.”

The situation is critical.

In a meeting co-hosted by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, the European Union, and UN humanitarian affairs officials on Wednesday, Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that the crisis constituted “a terrible human tragedy and a threat to international peace and security, and that merits the full and immediate prioritization and attention of the international community at the highest levels.”

At least someone is paying attention.

To read the full report, click here.

More articles by Category: International, Violence against women
More articles by Tag: War, Sexualized violence, Africa, Rape



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