A 26-year-old French photojournalist who had spent months documenting the conflict in Central African Republic has been killed, the French presidency said on Tuesday.
Camille Lepage, a freelance photographer whose work was published in major French and American newspapers, died in a village near the town of Bouar.
“All means necessary will be used to shed light on to the circumstances of this murder and to find her killers,” the statement said.
Lepage’s body was found by French peacekeepers inside a vehicle that had been driven by Christian militia fighters, the statement said. In her last tweet about a week ago, Lepage said she was embedding with the fighters known as the anti-Balaka who were battling the remnants of a Muslim rebellion known as the Seleka.
“We left at 3:30am to avoid the Misca [African peacekeeping] checkpoints and it took us 8 hours by motorbike as there is no proper roads to reach the village,” she tweeted.
A native of Angers, France, Lepage also had worked extensively in Juba, South Sudan, before moving to the Central African Republic. In an interview with a photography blog, PetaPixel, she said she was drawn to covering forgotten conflicts.
“I want the viewers to feel what the people are going through, I would like them to empathise with them as human beings, rather than seeing them as another bunch of Africans suffering from war somewhere in this dark continent,” she said.
Lepage had recently travelled to New York for a prestigious portfolio review and workshop at the New York Times. Her work had appeared in the newspaper, as well as on Al Jazeera, in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. She also had sold images to French newspapers including Le Monde and Liberation.
Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri met Lepage in Bangui in December and described her as a “talented and driven photo journalist, with a unique eye for the story”.
“She was also simply a lovely person, always willing to share her contacts, and her stories after a hard day of work,” our correspondent said of Lepage.
“What happened to Camille shows how dangerous Central African Republic has become. There are no clear front lines, once you leave the capital Bangui, you really are in the hands of the local group that you have entrusted with your life.”