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The Scars of the CAR Give Rise to a New Threat

For the past eight years, the Central African Republic (CAR) has been the theatre of a brutal civil war that has left its economy in tatters, its institutions in ruins and its people traumatised. Laurent Gomina-Pampali, a professor at the University of Bangui who has previously been the country’s minister of foreign affairs, minister of human rights and minister of justice, believes it is this disintegration of the country’s social fabric that is responsible for a growing phenomenon: witch-hunts. Elderly people – normally women – are increasingly being accused of practicing witchcraft – and being killed for it. Often, the accusations come from within the families of the accused. Nathalie Koutou is the head of the psychiatry department at the General Hospital in Bangui and says the tens of thousands of people suffering from trauma as a result of the conflict are particularly susceptible to accusations of witchcraft. But there is little the hospital can do to help.