Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Who is caring about CAR?

Timber is Central African Republic’s number one official export
In Bogani village, The nearest health clinic, which is a difficult walk through six kilometres of thick natural forest, has no doctors, only first-aiders. “We are suffering,”  says Zibè.
Child mortality rates are desperately high here. In fact, life is precarious for all in Bogani, an indigenous pygmy village of around 100 huts - made mostly from bamboo and palm tree branches - which lies 146 kilometres south of the Central African Republic’s (CAR’s) capital Bangui in the district of Lobaye. Bogani suffers from the same lack of essential infrastructure – no electricity, no phone lines, no tarred roads, no school and hospitals – as the rest of the Central African Republic, which has endured years of institutional decay and a devastating civil war.
Yet while the people are desperately poor, they’re surrounded by vast natural wealth in the shape of dense tropical forest. And every day they see that wealth transported away on the back of lorries.
Michel Agnandjian, theheadman of the nearby Bobèlè village,  speaks with bitter irony: “Foreigners export our timber to their countries. Locals don’t get any profit. Look at my house. It’s appalling.” The house is made of uncooked bricks which are starting to crack, while the sanitary conditions are wretched.  While timber is everywhere, many of the schools in the region don’t have wooden tables or benches and the buildings are constructed out of palm leaves. Locals are frequently arrested for breaking the law if they cut wood to use for such purposes.
Even those who work for the timber companies, like André Zibè,  see little benefit: “I am tired of working for little money for logging companies,” he said. The work - frequently backbreaking - involves removing tree stumps and chopping large trees. Often, he says, he has to ask several times before he is paid: an example of the enduring discrimination that pygmies face. For this reason, Zibè, like others in the village, is drawn back to the life of hunting and gathering that his people led for millennia.
Maurice Mondjimba, deputy headman of Bogani, also says his people are “marginalised”, adding that: “Most of the time, we are not consulted before our forests are exploited.”
This daily struggle for survival is echoed across the country. Despite its vast natural resources, in 2016 CAR was ranked last in the U.N.'s Human Development Index of 188 nations. Meanwhile 2.5 million out of a population of 4.6 million are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, and average life expectancy languishes at 51.5 years. 
In March 2013 the country descended into civil war. One of the war’s causes was the deeply unequal distribution of wealth that attract armed groups to combine under the Séléka banner. After they overthrew the government, violence reigned, with whole villages and towns pillaged and mass atrocities committed. Thousands lost their lives; many more lost their homes.

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