Rebel groups in the Central African Republic succeeded in overthrowing the government, but there is growing confusion and concern over who is actually running the country. 

The United Nations says some leaders who are supposed to be forming a transitional government  cannot return home  because they fear for their lives.

"The first thing we need to do is a plan, an agreement with the people who are holding up, and we have been trying to do that for a number of years, and we actually did, UNICEF and partners managed to secure an agreement … unfortunately that really has not been respected. We have seen continuous recruitment of children, but equally the conflict has expanded ... and in the situation of weak governance, the absence of rule of law, and given the other conditions of extreme survival ... children are highly vulnerable."

- Robert McCarthy, an emergency adviser for UNICEF

This latest conflict in the Central African Republic stems from the so-called Bush War, which began in 2004, after President Francois Bozize seized control.

Rebel groups accuse the government of failing to abide by a Libyan-brokered peace deal in 2007, and others since then.

In December last year, fighters from three groups formed a coalition called Seleka - which means alliance. They quickly overran northern and central parts of the country.

A ceasefire was signed in January but it quickly broke down, with both sides blaming each other.

Meanwhile, Seleka rebels continued their march south and last month, they captured the capital, Bangui. President Bozize fled the country on March 24, and is now in exile.

Rebel leader Michel Djotodia declared himself president the same day, he suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament.

In the meantime, security has all but broken down and civilians are suffering. The UN says looting and sexual violence is rife, and the humanitarian crisis is “extremely dire”. 

It reports that two million children are exposed to violence, and without basic social services. It also estimates there are 170,000 newly displaced people, and 37,000 people have sought asylum in neighbouring Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

" ... we are living in a difficult situation now ... but we are working very hard to tackle all these difficulties, as you know we have around 3,000 rebels in the town ... causing chaos, but again the government is taking this very seriously, and working alongside the international community to tackle all these security problems.  

Crepin Mboli-Goumba, CAR government spokesperson

More than 70 percent of the population has no access to health services and four out of 10 do not know where their next meal is coming from.

The Central African Republic has been dogged by instability, coups and conflict. It is a landlocked country, in the heart of Africa, sharing its borders with no less than six countries.

It gained independence from France in 1960 - and has vast natural resources, including gold and diamonds, uranium, oil and forests - but remains one of the poorest countries in the world.

The Human Development Index, which measures variables like life expectancy and education, ranks the Central African Republic 179th out of 187 countries.

So, who is now in charge of the Central African Republic and what is being done to protect the people? 

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter David Foster, is joined by guests: Crepin Mboli-Goumba, a former member of the opposition, now part of the Central African Republic unity government; Robert McCarthy, an emergency adviser for the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF); and David Zoumenou, a senior conflict analyst at the Institute for Security Studies.

"I think the conditions through which South Africa got into CAR will remain extremely difficult to apprehend.

"From [the] South African perspective, they said they went to [the] Central African Republic through the framework of bilateral agreements that was signed by both government in 2007, and renewed lately in December 2012.

"But for the public opinion perspective, many believe that South African went in because some members of the ruling party … have an interest in the mining sector."

- David Zounmenou, a senior conflict analyst at the Institute for Security Studies

Source: Al Jazeera