Return to Boda investigates the complex factors that led to inter-religious violence during 2014 in the town of Boda, Central African Republic. It offers a chronicle representative of the current broader crisis in the country triggered by conflicts over mineral resources, agricultural land and livestock, an enfeebled security apparatus and impunity for those who have committed human rights violations.

 

Pilgrims collect water believed to holy at the base of a hill in the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 7, 2014. The congregation carries the statue of the Virgin Mary to a nearby mount where it is left through the night before being retrieved at dawn the next morning. The pilgrims have come to the church to celebrate the December 8 festivities for the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

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Amadou Bouba prays at home in the town of Boda the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 2, 2013. Amadou's house was subsequently burnt down down by Anti-balaka in 2014. Three members of the family were killed during the attack and he fled into the bush with his family. One of his children left for Cameroon with a brother and two others died during 2014 of sickness as the hospital was inoperative.

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Altar boys' tunics hang on a line to dry at the Catholic mission in the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 6, 2013. Thousands of townsfolk fled to the church grounds seeking shelter on January 29, 2014 as inter-religious fighting broke out between Christians and Muslims.

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Police officers sit on a benchoutside the police station in the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 10, 2014. Even with a multitude of peace-keeping forces in place in the country, human rights abuses are committed with impunity. Maltreatment of the population by UN peacekeepers in Boda is widely reported with incidents of theft, black-market trading and sexual harassment.

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Father Claude blesses pilgrims with holy water on a hill in the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 7, 2014. The congregation carried the statue of the Virgin Mary to a nearby mount to celebrate the December 8 festivities for the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Many of the people are sheltered at the nearby Catholic Mission in tents, displaced by inter-religious violence throughout 2014.

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Women dance at a bar on Independence Day in the town of Boda on December 1, 2013. The bar was subsequently burn down during inter-religious violence. 

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Remould, 19 years old stands outside a tent where his family is seeking shelter at the Catholic mission in the town of Boda on December 9 2014. Inter-Religious violence over the previous twelve months fragmented the community into two separate enclaves. With peace returning but many homes burnt down, many people still have no housing.

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Patients wait for a consultation in the town of Boda on December 9, 2014. The Alima Medical Centre in the Muslim enclave employs 25 people including 2 doctors, 6 nurses and 5 midwives. Before the establishment of the medical centre muslims were unable to access health services as the hospital was in the Christian quartier.

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Father Francisco listens to a confession in the Catholic mission church in the town of on December 7, 2014.

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UN peace-keeping soldiers drive through the burnt out market in in the town of Boda, Central African Republic on December 9, 2014. Many of the townsfolk are wary of them and speak of incidents of theft, unlawful arrests and sexual harassment perpetrated by soldiers originating from the Republic of Congo. The rate of sexually transmitted diseases including syphilis and gonorrhoea noticeably increased with the arrival of the peace-keeping force.

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Louma Marie-Angel stands within the burnt out ruins of her home in the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 9 2014. "We were at home and heard the gunfire and fled into the bush. We thought we would be home a few days but ended up living there for 10 weeks. Finally we sought shelter at Catholic Mission. Some of my children are studying in Bangui, my husband has gone to Guinea to see his other sons and when he returns he will stay in Bangui. We don't know how we will rebuild our home." She has been living in a building on the Catholic Mission since inter-religious violence over the previous twelve months fragmented the community into two separate enclaves. With peace returning but many homes burnt down, many people still have no housing.

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Hawa (left) sits with her sister-in-law Hajara in the town of Boda the town of Boda on December 10, 2014. Both women lost their husbands in attacks by Anti-balaka fighters and they were not able to locate the bodies afterwards. The family have moved house four times during the last year.

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Pilgrims pray to the Virgin Mary on a hilltop in the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 7, 2013. The congregation carries the statue of the Virgin Mary to this mount where it is left through the night before being retrieved at dawn the next morning for the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

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A woman speaks in tongues on a hilltop in the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 7, 2014. The congregation carries the statue of the Virgin Mary to a nearby mount where it is left through the night before being retrieved at dawn the next morning. The pilgrims have come to the church to celebrate the December 8 festivities for the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

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A Seleka rebel sits on a bench in the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 5, 2013. That same day heavy fighting between Seleka and resistance groups in the capital Bangui were reported. The Seleka fled from Bangui in late January 2014 without attacking the population. Despite this inter-religious violence broke out between Christians and Muslims throughout 2014.

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A woman walks down a hill in the town of Boda on December 10, 2014.

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Mokala, an employee at the church demonstrates signals of the Boy Scouts Association at the residence of the Catholic church in the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 7, 2013. Mokala was later killed during inter-religious fighting between Christians and Muslims in the town of Boda during 2014. Leaving the safety of the church grounds where thousands of people were sheltering, he went to his home to retrieve a duck that was dear to him. On the return he was chased down by men and killed. His body was identified later on the side of the road, decapitated with his duck lying dead next to him.

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A woman walks along a bush track in the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 7, 2014. Over one thousand internally displaced people, many women and children are hiding in camps in the surrounding scrubland. Death from malaria has been one of the biggest killers as people sleep exposed in the bush.

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An ALIMA team undertakes surgery on a driver of the NGO at the hospital in Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 10, 2014. The driver was attacked by bandits in a vehicle with a patient between the town of Mbaiki and Boda. They beat tortured and hacked the driver's neck before leaving him in where the car was dumped off the main road. A response team recovered the driver and patient the following day where he was rushed to the hospital for surgery. Alima supports the running of the main hospital in the town of Boda and also opened a medical centre in the muslim enclave.

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Amadou Bouba at a family member's home in the town of Boda the town of Boda on December 10, 2014. Amadou's house was burnt down down by anti-balaka. Three members of the family were killed during the attacked and he fled into the bush with his family. One of his children left for Cameroon with a brother and two others died during 2014 of sicknesses.

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Artisanal miners work in a pit in the town of Boda the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 10, 2014. The main trade office for diamonds and gold in Boda is owned by a Lebanese man. Many of the Christians in the community are resentful that the Muslims have successfully operating businesses and also reap the benefits of the mine, one main reason for the violence that broke out in the town of Boda.

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The mayor works in his office at the Hotel de Ville / Town Hall in the town of Boda on December 3, 2013.

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Students undertake a dictation exercise at the high school of the Catholic Mission in the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 9 2014. The Director of the school Alaincyr Woda says "The school only reopened last month so was not operating for the whole year. We had the support of some NGOs and there was also a school launched in the muslim enclave because beforehand the majority of Muslim students studying here with the Christians. It's a complex situation in Boda, the families of both religions are intermarried, they lived in harmony before. The main reason the Christians are resentful is because their houses were burnt down. They have no home to return to."

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Pilgrims walk down from a hilltop in the town of Boda, Lobaye District, Central African Republic (CAR) on December 7, 2013. The congregation carries the statue of the Virgin Mary to this mount where it is left through the night before being retrieved at dawn the next morning for the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.

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