Central African Republic soldiers patrol a street of Bangui last year
SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images
Central African Republic soldiers patrol a street of Bangui last year

Story highlights

As political turmoil rages, aid agencies are warning of a humanitarian crisis.

The most vulnerable are children, who have been separated from relatives

About 1.5 million people need assistance, and the number will go up, the U.N. warns

CNN —  

In just over a day, rebels seized the Central African Republic’s capital, forced the president out of the country and declared the nation had “opened a new page in its history.”

A coalition of rebels ousted President Francois Bozize this week, the latest in a series of coups since the nation gained independence from France in 1960.

After the deposed president fled the nation, a rebel leader declared himself in charge and urged residents to welcome the new leadership.

But as the political turmoil rages, aid agencies are warning of a humanitarian crisis as attacks escalate.

Violence, looters and fear of the rebels are preventing critically injured patients from going to health facilities in the capital of Bangui, said French medical aid group, Medecins Sans Frontieres.

The aid group – also known as Doctors Without Borders – said its facilities were raided.

“MSF condemns the looting and robberies of our facilities and reminds all parties that medical personnel must be respected and protected and must be granted all available help in the performance of their duties,” said Serge St. Louis, MSF head of mission in Bangui.

The United Nations, which also said its offices were looted, urged safe and unhindered humanitarian access to victims of violence.

About 1.5 million people need assistance, and the number will go up unless aid workers are allowed unlimited access, the United Nations said Tuesday.

What’s behind the turmoil in the Central African Republic

The most vulnerable are children, who have been separated from relatives and are at risk of being recruited as soldiers, it said.

“Those responsible for violations and abuses of international humanitarian and human rights law, including violence against civilians, sexual and gender-based violence, and recruitment and use of children must be held accountable,” the U. N. Security Council said in a statement.

Its 5.1 million residents include various ethnic groups who speak several languages. Even though French is the official language, Sango is the primary one.

In March 2003, then-president Ange-Felix Patasse was deposed in a coup led by Gen. Francois Bozize.

Bozize is now in Cameroon, from which he is seeking to move to another country, the Cameroon government said in a communique dated Monday. The statement said that despite his presence, the country shall adhere to a policy of non-intervention.

In December 2012, several of the rebel groups banded together, calling themselves the Seleka, or “coalition” in the Sango language. They accused Bozize of reneging on a peace deal and demanded that he step down.

They accused Bozize of reneging on a peace deal, and demanded that he step down.

Yes, Bozize and the Seleka brokered a peace deal in January, agreeing to form a unity government led by Bozize.

But that deal also fell apart.

Their efforts took a pivotal turn on March 24, when they infiltrated the capital.