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Lack of security adds to Central African Republic crisis

December 4, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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GWEN IFILL: Tomorrow, the United Nations Security Council will vote on sending forces into the Central African Republic, where 12 more civilians were killed in fighting today. The French have already dispatched more than 600 soldiers to the troubled nation, with more on the way.

The CAR has fallen into chaos since rebels seized control of the capital last spring.

We have a report from Alex Thomson of Independent Television News.

A warning: Some images may be disturbing to some viewers.

ALEX THOMSON: Tomorrow, the United Nations votes for what they pray here will be a robust peacekeeping force more than urgently needed.

In the capital, Bangui, the existing French army presence is beefing up, but they will need a lot more transport planes. The country is the size of France and descending rapidly into violent chaos.

We flew west through Bouar this morning. It seemed wise. Seleka gunmen killed 15 people on the road route just yesterday. As we land, soldiers from the puny African U.N. force stand guard. It’s near silent, tense.

These men say the Seleka engage them daily. Every plane needs security. Minutes later, sudden urgency, the Red Cross payload, 16 people with gunshot wounds, mostly women and children, like 3-year-old Petenu. The casualties are taken to what passes for the hospital in Bouar.

And we learn more about little Petenu, shot through the buttocks in a firefight between the Seleka gunmen and opposing militia. Petenu’s dad, Maturio Combo, describes how his three other children were killed and his wife. “Petenu,” he says, “is all I have left.”

On the bed next door, another unsmiling traumatized child casualty. What does life hold in the Central African Republic for a little girl whose right arm has been shot off? For Leslie, everything about life has now changed.

And you do not have to go far to see where the violence is happening. The village of Vakap, or what is left of it, is just a few miles north of Bouar, cooking in a burned-out shell. Seleka gunman heard a rumor that this was an opposition village. They came, looted, shot the place up, and burned much of it to the ground.

Hundreds are still out there in the bush, they say, too terrified to come home.

So what security do you have here now? Who can protect you?

BADENGA FIDELE, village leader (through interpreter): We don’t have any security here.

ALEX THOMSON: No police, no army?

BADENGA FIDELE: There’s no police, no army, only Seleka people that come here.

ALEX THOMSON: Every week, more and more villages like this are appearing across this country. And the United Nations is already speaking of the potential for genocide here.

If nothing is done, it seems pretty plain this country will become another disaster zone like Congo, like Sudan or like Somalia. But, on this occasion, for once, just possibly, the world has the chance to intervene if it takes decisive action and takes it fast.

This week could mark the beginning of that decisive action, but how long until anyone on the ground here really feels any safer?