Libenge, DR Congo – More than 60,000 residents of the Central African Republic have fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo since April 2013, when Seleka rebels ousted the government in CAR’s capital, Bangui.
The mass displacement has been happening as rival militia – largely divided between Christian and Muslim groups – attack villages believed to be affiliated with the other. Whole villages have been razed to the ground, as men armed mostly with machetes, but also with firearms, spread a deadly cycle of brutal violence in ongoing tit-for-tat revenge massacres.
Some 30,000 of those displaced live in four refugee camps set up by the UN High Commission for Refugees in DRC. For the majority, there was no time to pack before escaping. They fled extreme violence and chaos and arrived exhausted and traumatised in the DRC. They could take only the most essential and lightest belongings. Those belongings are featured in this photo essay by Brian Sokol, and include a sandal that helped an old woman, a pair of crutches used by a man to reach safety and a boy’s photo of his slain father. Another boy named the family members who escaped to safety with him as his most important possession – and many others would feel the same.
The photos here were taken at Batanga Transit Centre, Boyabo Refugee Camp and Libenge village in August 2013. Many of those in these photographs have since been moved to safer locations, far from the river which divides CAR from DRC.