Back to l’Afrique – Central African Republic, Part 1

In CAR, International Development on November 15, 2014 at 12:12 pm

I’m in the Central African Republic, and I’ve been writing a blog.  Since I’ve written a fair amount at this point, I thought I’d catch up my tiny cabal of loyal readers… 🙂

8:30pm, Casablanca Airport, Morocco
On my way to Central African Republic, or CAR, in my head I always say the initials C.A.R. CAR is pretty much one of the worst off failed states in all of Africa, probably now almost worse than Somalia. Ever since independence, they just never got going in any meaningful way, not even any kind of golden time like most other African countries have had. You know – when all their buildings were built with new mineral wealth or whatever. CAR has been kind of a victim of the cold war, they’re a French client state and the French propped up a series of “least-bad option” presidents at different times, none of whom were very good. One of whom may have been a cannibal.

CAR has been plagued by religious based violence the last couple of years, with the corresponding opportunistic criminals and power grabs. A weak president who came to power in a coup a few years ago was deposed in another coup in I think late 2012 and then the new guy had support from Islamic-based militias. Muslims are a minority in CAR but there was some serious enmity brewing under the surface, there were horrific atrocities committed by both sides over the last couple of years. A recent New Yorker article had a good explanation of the situation. All this lead to massive displacement, with thousands camping out at the Bangui airport and livelihoods disrupted all over the country as people didn’t plant or had their villages destroyed by various factions.

I’ll be staying in Bangui, which is right on a river which is the border with CAR and DRC (former Zaire). They use the Central African CFA, which I’m familiar with.

I’m excited to be back in Africa, this is my first time back since I was evacuated out of South Sudan last December. I’m anxious to put that behind me. This will also be the first time I’ll be working in a francophone country in almost 2 years. While I was at my last job I didn’t work on West Africa at all, the last thing I did for IRD was travel to Niger and Burkina for a proposal development trip. That was a ton of French and I left on kind of a french-language high… I’m hoping its still in my head somewhere.

I haven’t blogged a lot of my recent trips, for a variety of reasons. On a practical level, I have to be discreet blogging while I work for my current employer, as advised when I was brought on board. Also, one of the recent countries I’ve visited, we’re working under the radar and I can’t talk about it, and for my last trip to Iraq in September, my blog notes were mostly just me venting and I didn’t want to post them. I’ve done enough complaining about missing my family. They know.

Anyway, maybe this trip will be different. Visiting a whole new place, this is more my wheelhouse, and I may have an opinion worth sharing!

More from CAR in Part 2…


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