News Africa

Sunday 31 August 2014

One story of hope in forgotten conflict

Krista Larson Carnot, Central African Republic

Published 31/05/2014 | 02:30

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A member of the anti-balaka militia that was formed to fight the mainly Muslim Seleka that once ruled the country, poses wearing charms which fighters believe will protect them from harm.
A member of the anti-balaka militia that was formed to fight the mainly Muslim Seleka that once ruled the country, poses wearing charms which fighters believe will protect them from harm.

WHEN gunfire rang out through the village just after dawn, when neighbours dropped their coffee to flee, even when her mother grabbed three younger children and ran for her life, the 10-year-old girl still did not move.

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It was not terror that pinned Hamamatou Harouna to the ground, although she was terrified. It was that polio had left her unable to walk. So all she could do was wait and watch, paralysed, as the vicious 'forgotten war' between Muslims and Christians in the Central African Republic came to her village.

The Christian fighters were going from door to door and she wondered if she would die.

That's when her 12-year-old brother came to her rescue. Barely bigger than his sister, Souleymane struggled to hoist her on to his back. They set off, barefoot, disappearing into the dense tropical forest as fast as they could.

Over the past year, the conflict between Muslims and Christians has killed thousands in the Central African Republic, a nation of about 4.6 million that sits almost precisely at the heart of Africa.

That's what left Hamamatou and her brother trudging along the red dirt path.

The Associated Press agency pieced together the story from interviews with the girl, witnesses, health workers, priests and medical records. (AP)

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