In December of 2013, VICE NEWS went to the Central African Republic (CAR) to try to understand an underreported conflict that was descending into, what the United Nations called, complete chaos.
The week before they arrived they saw some of the worst violence with hundreds killed in the capital of Bangui. France and the African Union, already with a small troop presence, rushed in more soldiers to try to keep the peace.
What started as a rebel coalition overthrowing a corrupt government was now becoming a conflict split across religious lines. In a small, mostly forgotten country in the middle of Africa we witness a major turning point conflict, one that would lead to horrific ethnic cleansing.
The Central African Republic is a landlocked country in the middle of Africa. Despite being full of natural resources, like gold, diamonds and uranium, it's one of the poorest countries in the world. After being ruled by France for decades the country gained independence in 1960. Since then it suffered one coup after another in no small part due to the meddling of neighboring countries like Chad and Sudan, as well as its former colonial master, France.
In 2003, François Bozizé seized power and began a 10 year reign of incompetence and corruption. Different rebel groups rose up and by the end of 2012 a number of them formed an alliance called the Séléka, a mostly Muslim rebel coalition led by Michel Djotodia.
The current conflict really took hold in March of 2013 when the Séléka overthrew the Bozizé's government and set about terrorizing the country... raping, murdering and looting. Djotodia declared himself president in April and then proved either unwilling or unable to reign. In response, mostly Christian self defense groups called the Anti-Balaka formed and started fighting back. Civilians were caught in the middle as the fighting grew increasingly sectarian.