The Battle for Bossangoa

In Bangui, a trusted source of information in a time of uncertainty

Bangui, Central African Republic. An eerie calm has settled in the city. There is little or no traffic, and no new news of anti-Balaka fighting. The French troops are focused on disarming Seleka. They first secure the main roads and intersections then enter neighborhoods where abuses are continuing on both sides. There are signs of looting; two mosques have been destroyed.

French President François Holland confirmed during his visit last week that there are no plans to increase the size of the French contingent. Demands that President Djotodia resign are fading.

Internal displacement continues, with an estimated 37,000 people at the airport, and 17,000 at the monastery; most of our Radio Ndeke Luka staff have moved home. The number of dead is estimated at 600 dead.

Inside the country the French have started to disarm in Bossangoa. Rumors of attacks and displacement are rife while confirmed news reports from the interior of the country are minimal or absent completely from some regions.

Radio Ndeke Luka was the first media back on air December 8th after the attacks, followed by Radio Centrafrique and Radio Notre Dame; the local newspapers have not yet resumed print.

At Radio Ndeke Luka the emergency broadcast grid has stabilized: 08.00-11.00 live reports, inserts, news flash every ½ hour with audio until noon; 11.00-13.00 messages from listeners; 13.00-13.30 great edition; 13.30-14.00 institutional communications; 14.00-15.00 more messages from listeners, and eventually the reintroduction of the debate program. The grid will extend and deepen as staff are able to return safely to work, though for the moment the radio goes off air at 15:00.

As a trusted and credible source of information for the population, Radio Ndeke Luka is playing a critical role distinguishing rumor from fact, reuniting and reassuring families that have been separated in the violence, and providing a space for dialogue and understanding in a society torn apart.

Dario Baroni, Chargé de programme, Fondation Hirondelle

Photo: Marcus Bleasdale/VII for Human Rights Watch