Ever since the Seleka took over control of the country, we have been completely swamped because the children don’t want to be on the streets due to all the violence. Normally, we can accommodate 60 children. Right now, we have on average 100 of them during the day; that number doubles come nightfall. And we only have 60 beds! For the past couple of weeks, we have been forced to turn back about 50 children a day.
Even though we are swamped, our staff scours the streets to find the youngest kids and those most in need of help. Before the crisis, it was easy for us to find these kids because they gather in small clans, each with their own territory in the capital. We make them understand that living in the street and in these clans is not good for them. However, after the coup, it’s been much harder to find them because many are hiding to avoid running into Seleka soldiers.
Lacking enough beds for all the children, the foundation makes do with what it has.
“Some children disappear and come back wearing brand new clothes”
We also see a reverse phenomenon – about 15 children who regularly stay at our foundation left with armed men who said they are part of the Seleka. We call these children the “wrestlers” because they fight to survive by clinging on to anything and everything. Some of them go out with these men to thieve. Others, generally the younger ones, are used as scouts.
This is how some children come to own stolen goods. Some tried to bring their booty – such as mobile phones and computers – back to the foundation, but we wouldn’t let them. The next day, they come back wearing brand new clothes that they bought by selling their loot!
“We don’t have anyone to talk to about children’s rights”
Whenever we try to talk about this situation with government representatives, we receive no response [Editor’s note: the foundation, with the help of UNICEF, has tried in vain to contact the education minister and the minister for youth and sports]. The only people we can talk to are the Seleka representatives that we come across. But whenever we beg them to do something, they always ask for money. A month after the fall of Bangui, it’s clear that our country is still totally disorganised.