WCARO CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
UNICEF helps reunite Central African Republic’s displaced families
“Like many of us living in the hinterland, life was already fairly difficult, but with the conflict, our living conditions have been getting worse,” says Marie.
Noël Bangadio lived with his family in N’Zacko, a village located 50 km from Bakouma, in eastern Central Africa. Married to Jeanne, they had four children, Marie, 15, Robinson, 11, Michel, 8 and Nicole, 3.
Marie, the oldest child, would help her mum with household chores. She attended the second year at secondary school and looked after her younger siblings’ homework. Everything seemed to be for the best until Jeanne, their mother, died. The whole family returned to Bossangoa, their native village, in Bororo, in north-western Central Africa, to live with their grandparents.
On that day in February 2006, when the children were all at school (apart from Nicole who was too young and had stayed with her grandma), they suddenly heard a loud explosion, a deafening noise. Scared, they all ran out of their classrooms and witnessed a terrifying tragedy.
“Armed men were shooting in all directions and shouting ‘Where are the goats? Where are the goats?’ Many villagers were injured. A vehicle was parked near the community school with a gun pointed at those running,” Marie tells.
At that precise moment, Marie only thought of her two young brothers. She started panicking when she suddenly saw them running towards her. The three of them escaped as fast as they could without turning round. All of a sudden, however, Marie felt a pain in her leg, then in her arm and in her face. But she kept running!
“We fled, everyone fled, but I did not know I had been injured. I wanted to protect my little brothers. I was very lucky to find myself in a rickshaw at the frontier and to be saved by some villagers who were fleeing like us. Thousands of us fled and gathered first at the Chadian frontier, then in a camp outside the country. It was in hospital that I was taken care of,” Marie carries on explaining.
After this terrible experience of conflict and flight, Marie and her brothers reunited in Amboko refugee camp, in southern Chad.
At the time of the attack, the village emptied itself. No living soul was to be found.
Before the armed men arrived, Marie’s grandparents, her father and her little sister Nicole had also managed to escape and hide in the forest with many others. They remained in the bush for three and a half months. It was the rainy season. They had no food and survived on roots and leaves. They were finally reunited in another camp at the Chad border.
For little Nicole it was the second time she found herself in that camp, as six months earlier there had been fighting on two occasions in Bororo.
Today, thanks to UNICEF assistance and the help of several NGOs, Marie and her family are reunited again.
“We survived this tragedy. We will never go back to that village; I do not want to take the risk to be separated from my family again! Anyway, they will come back and kill us!” Marie exclaims.
© UNICEF Central African Republic/2006/Caccia