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Armed men patrol the streets of Bangui. Credit: Caritas

Cases of arbitrary killings, robberies, looting and abductions have been reported throughout Central African Republic since Seleka rebel forces seized power in March.

“I saw a man walking down the street. Armed men called out to him. Then he was shot and killed for no reason,” said Solange. “I have been living in fear for the past three months. I just stay at home all day. The school is closed any way.”

As well as widespread criminality and human rights abuses, concerns have been raised over the forced recruitment of teenagers by armed groups.

Meanwhile, basic services have ground to a halt. A Caritas aid worker said that without the rule of law, many schools have not reopened and even where they have, only few students are attending.

Josphine, 8 years old, is frightened to leave her house.”The fighting is over but I’m still scared. When you go to the main road, you see men with guns,” she said.

“Our bishop told us to go to school,” said Clemence, also 8 years old. “He said we must get back to normal life because if we keep all the things we saw in our heads, we’ll become sick.”

The impact of the crisis is affecting all parts of the country. Food is in short supply and it is becoming expensive to buy. “The planting season has started but only a small proportion of farmers have enough seed. Farmers were also looted and lost their tools,” said a Caritas worker.

Regional peacekeepers from the Economic Community of Central African States have been deployed. The regional body says in coming weeks it will more than double the size of the force to 2,000 soldiers.

According to Caritas staff in the country, there has been a slight improvement in security. “The cases of looting and violence are more sporadic. In  towns, we are starting to see Seleka forces go unarmed,” said a Caritas staff member in Bangui.

Caritas has been able to provide limited aid through parishes. The Catholic Church in the Central African Republic has called for an end to the violence.

The national Catholic Church’s Justice and Peace Commission says: “Not knowing where to turn, the population still lives in constant fear of looting and rape. Injustice, violence, kidnappings and gangland have become the daily bread of the people.”

Read their report (in French): La Commission Episcopale