BANGUI, Central African Republic — Fear consumes them: Fear of the machete. Fear of the sudden, senseless attack. Fear for their lives.
And so they come each day by the thousands, seeking safety in massive numbers. They cram into a squalid camp just outside the airport here in the capital of the Central African Republic, a nation shattered by months of violent religious and political conflict that has killed an estimated 500. A fetid open trench serves as a latrine for more than 20,000 people clustered in an expanding sea of makeshift tents.
The grim scene greeted Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on Thursday as she landed here for a high-profile diplomatic mission aimed at untangling what has become an increasingly complex humanitarian crisis.
Power, winner of a Pulitzer Prize for a book critical of the U.S. response to humanitarian crises, announced that U.S. military liaisons will soon be dispatched to help train the African Union soldiers who have joined French troops in a peacekeeping effort. She also said the United States will contribute $15 million in humanitarian aid, in addition to up to $100 million already pledged, to stem the crisis.
Power's trip served to raise international awareness of tit-for-tat atrocities committed against civilians by warring Muslim and Christian militias. In a series of high-level meetings and phone calls, she also sought to pressure the nation's wobbly transitional government to take steps toward reconciliation, disarmament and scheduling elections no later than February 2015.
"The people of the Central African Republic are in profound danger and we all have a responsibility to help them move away from the abyss," Power said.