After the Seleka
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A member of the Christian population around PK13 on the outskirts of Bangui runs through looted and burning homes of the Muslims who have fled after the Seleka President Michel Djotodia resigned and left the country in disarray The country was ruled by a minority Muslim government after the coup in March 2013. After months of oppression by the Muslim Seleka Government the local population take out their anger and frustrations on the largely innocent Muslim population.Marcus Bleasdale—VII
After the Seleka
The Battle for Bossangoa
After the Seleka
After the Seleka
After the Seleka
After the Seleka
After the Seleka
After the Seleka
After the Seleka
After the Seleka
A member of the Christian population around PK13 on the outskirts of Bangui runs through looted and burning homes of the Muslims who have fled after the Seleka President Michel Djo
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Marcus Bleasdale—VII
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Marcus Bleasdale Wins Robert Capa Gold Medal

Apr 30, 2015

Early one morning in December 2013, in the town of Bossangoa, less than 200 miles northwest of Bangui, the capital of Central African Republic, photographer Marcus Bleasdale was documenting the plight of nomadic Muslim herders who had recently been attacked by predominantly Christian fighters.

One of them had been struck by a bullet and needed immediate medical attention. Bleasdale assisted in taking him to the hospital for treatment, but rather than stay there, the man wanted to rejoin his family. When they returned to drop him off, the town had completely changed.

"I’ve been in a couple of attacks in these small towns over the years in Central Africa, and it’s very easy to see that the population is acutely aware of what’s about to happen,” Bleasdale told TIME in a recent interview. “The houses have been closed up, the businesses have been closed up, there wasn’t a single person on the road," he continued. "As we were driving away, the attack started. We could hear the guns starting just to our left and right.”

The group immediately went to a nearby African Union base to find shelter. “We saw thousands of people from the city running towards this compound,” Bleasdale recalled. “It was a matter of 30 minutes before we realized this was a countrywide, coordinated attack.”

The scenes that day, which Bleasdale called “desperately sad,” played out across Central African Republic, the landlocked former French colony of some 4.5 million people in the heart of the continent. Two days of unprecedented bloodshed between the largely Muslim Séléka fighters and anti-balaka militias—comprised of Christians, animists and ex-soldiers—would leave hundreds dead in the capital and many more across the country, rocketing the conflict into the international spotlight and prompting an influx of foreign troops to try and tamp down the violence.

In January 2014, after the country's self-installed Muslim leader stepped down and Séléka went into retreat, what Bleasdale called an “uneasy peace” that lasted just a few weeks gave way to an “all-out attack" on the largely Muslim population that was remaining. An unstable security situation since then has kept the country and its people in limbo.

“This is not a religious war,” he said. “This is a war about corruption, it’s a war about poverty, it’s a war about misrule, mismanagement, bad governance."

For his work, commissioned by Human Rights Watch, Foreign Policy and National Geographic, Bleasdale has been named the latest recipient of the Robert Capa Gold Medal by the Overseas Press Club of America. It’s the first time the Medal has been bestowed on a photographer for work produced, in part, for a non-governmental organization.

Read: Magnum Photographer Jerome Sessini Wins Olivier Rebbot Award

The award, named after famed war photographer Robert Capa, who died after stepping on a land mine in Indochina in 1954, is among the industry’s most prestigious and honors the “best published photographic reporting from abroad requiring exceptional courage and enterprise.”

Previous recipients have included Larry Burrows of LIFE and Horst Faas of the Associated Press for their coverage during the Vietnam War; James Nachtwey for stories in Lebanon, El Salvador and South Africa; Getty Images photographer John Moore after the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan; and Carolyn Cole of the Los Angeles Times for work on Iraq and Liberia.

For his part, Bleasdale recognizes the company he’s in. “That’s really what went through my mind a little bit when I found out that I’d been honored,” he said. But he quickly noted that his work would not have been possible without his team, including loyal fixers and drivers, and especially Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director at Human Rights Watch.

Bleasdale’s career in photojournalism began in the late 1990s, documenting the war fueled by diamonds in Sierra Leone. From there, he pivoted to Central Africa and specifically began to focus on the Democratic Republic of Congo and how natural resources were being used to finance the conflict there.

Documenting the shift and struggle over money and natural resources in developing nations is a natural fit for Bleasdale. He studied business during his university years, focusing on economics and finance, and then spent nearly a decade as an investment banker.

“I tend to still kind of have this economic training in my mind when I work as a photographer and specifically when I work covering conflict,” he says. “When I document conflict, I don’t necessarily document the conflict itself but I try to look at the economics behind the war, and what is financing it."

Bleasdale hopes to return to Central African Republic within the next few months, with an aim to focus on real life beyond the horror. “I have a lot more work to do there.”

BanguiA young girls stands in the doorway of a house. A member of her family, 21 year old Fleuri Doumana, was killed two days earlier by a grenade launched by a member of Seleka. The rebel group that took power in March 2013 carries out numerous exactions such as murder, kidnapping, and torture.
VIEW GALLERY | 30 PHOTOS
A young girls stands in the doorway of a house, two days after a member of her family was killed by a grenade said to be launched by a member of Séléka. Bangui, Central African Republic. Nov. 14, 2013.William Daniels—Panos for TIME
BanguiA young girls stands in the doorway of a house. A member of her family, 21 year old Fleuri Doumana, was killed two days earlier by a grenade launched by a member of Seleka. The rebel group that took power in March 2013 carries out numerous exactions such as murder, kidnapping, and torture.
BanguiDemonstrators gather on a street in Bangui, the capital, to call for the resignation of interim president Michel Djotodia following the murder of Judge Modeste Martineau Bria by members of the Seleka. 30 minutes after this picture was taken, Seleka militia shot into the crowd, killing two and wounding another.
BanguiA Christian man is destroying burn out cars in rage, next to a looted mosque that was set on fire earlier, in the capital Bangui.
BanguiA soldier from the national army, Central African Army Forces (FACA), wounded in fighting with Seleka rebels waits to be treated at the Community Hospital.
BanguiCentral African Republic army soldiers (FACA) mourn the death of a colleague, who was killed by members of the Seleka rebel group.
Antibalakas (christian self defense group)  in the bush between Bossangoa and Bossembelé. Antibalakas first took arms to protect their families from the Seleka exactions (murder, rape, robbery). But some decided to take revenge over the muslims community as the Seleka is made only of muslim men, which made the tensions between the 2 communities getting very bad.
Between Bossemtpele & ZawaPart of a group of several hundred of Anti-Balaka militias return from an attack on a Peul (Fulani - a Muslim tribe) village.
Gulinga, 5 km from Grimari.Relatives mourn the death of two men and one woman, murdered by Seleka fighters shortly before, in the village of Gulinga. They had accused them of being Antibalakas. The woman was killed as collateral damage” according to a Seleka colonel who admitted the killing.  Grimari has been under attack from Antibalakas for two days since it is the gateway to the Ouaka region which is still controlled by Seleka fighters whose general Mahamat Darrassa is a conciliatory figure, having dislodged other Seleka units who were wreaking havoc among local communities. French peacekeepers trust Darassa, viewing him as the only reliable safeguard against sectarian violence in the Ouaka region.
Bangui.A man accused of robbery is detained at the police station. He was about to be killed by the guard of the General direction of work.While we arrived there, the guard was saying he wanted to kill him but left when he saw us. A dozen person around, some in suits, civil servants working at the direction, were claiming he should be killed.
A woman cries the death of her 23 years old daughter Fleuri Doumana who was killed by a grenade launched in her courtyard by a member of the Seleka. The rebel group that took power in March 2013 carries out numerous exactions such as murders, kidnapping, torture.... Bangui.
In Bossangoa, about 40 000 displaced people, mostly christians who left their village attacked by the Seleka, took refuge around the cathedral. The people live there with low access to health, very low food and in bad sanitary conditions.
Nov. 16, 2014.
BanguiA man prepares a body for funeral at the morgue surrounded by Some of the dozens of bodies of Christians presumably killed by Seleka militia in revenge for attacks by Christian Anti Balaka militia on Bangui.
Central African RepublicBanguiRelatives touch the coffin at the funeral of Judge Modeste Martineau Bria who was killed by Seleka fighters in Bangui. The murder of Bria led to an outpouring of public anger at the reign of fear imposed by Seleka fighters who have refused to disband following the December 2012 coup against former president Francois Bozize.
Bangui.French troops are trying to save a muslim man who was attacked by christians while he was in jail, accused of being a Seleka member, responsible for many exactions.
Bangui.Mpoko airport IDP camp where 100 000 people live (Jan-fev)
BanguiA makeshift camp built by around 100,000 internally displaced people near Bangui's Mpoko airport. Though food is short and sanitary conditions are poor, people have fled to the airport area where they feel safe from attack from Seleka fighters due to the French army presence near the airport.
BanguiInternally displaced people (IDP) queue for food at a Don Bosco centre in Bangui. Food supplies are low and there is not enough for everyone. Some 18,000 Christian IDPs took refuge here, fearing violence from mainly Muslim Seleka fighters who have been clashing with Christian Anti Balaka fighters in the capital, Bangui.
BambariA woman cooks in the Bambari hospital coumpound.
Boda.Peul (muslim tribe) children suffering from malnutrition and diarrhea in the enclave of Boda. About 11000 muslims are trapped in Boda center with low food and very low access to health. Children suffer from malnutrition and diarrhea, wounded and sick people can't be treated well as there are only two nurses and a doctor from IOM who comes from time to time. They miss medicines and tools. Any muslims who try to get out of the enclave can be shot by antibalakas. Nearby, there are also 9000 christians displaced by the fighting between the two communities.
Between Bozoum & BossempteleThe remnants of houses burnt by Seleka forces.
Ndassima gold mine. The gold mines in Ndassima were run by Aurafrique, a subsidiary of the Canadian company Axmin, before Seleka rebels managed to take over the site following a 2013 offensive.Several hundred artisanal miners produce an estimated 15 kg per month. Séléka forces under General Ali Daras are in charge of the security of the site and to road to access it from Bambari. According to artisanal miners, local traders and a Séléka commander, soldiers are instructed not to engage in commercial activities and do not levy taxes. They do get contributions from the population when responding to incidents like theft. Most of the gold produced in Ndassima is trafficked to Cameroon through Bangui, by air and over land. In late August, 27 miners died during a landslide (on the left of the picture).
Former child soldiers playing war games as part of their rehabilitation work. According to UNICEF psychologist in charge of them, such play help them to deal with their past.
Bangui.Fishermen on the Oubangui river on early morning.
BoaliAn alter boy prepares for a mass at a church where the priest offered sanctuary to a large group of Muslims who were the target of Anti-Balaka forces.
Boda.Elderly Hamadou Magazi has Tuberculoses and can't leave the enclave to be treated. About 11000 muslims are trapped in Boda center with low food and very low access to health. Children suffer from malnutrition and diarrhea, wounded and sick people can't be treated well as there are only two nurses and a doctor from IOM who comes from time to time. They miss medicines and tools. Any muslims who try to get out of the enclave can be shot by antibalakas. Nearby, there are also 9000 christians displaced by the fighting between the two communities.
BanguiA wounded muslim man lay on the ground after being attacked by dozen of angry christians saying he is a Seleka member. He is protected by MISCA and french soldiers but he will died from his wounds before a medic arrived.
Bodies of christian, mostly antibalakas, laying down in a street in Bangui, on the day following a major attack in several places in the city.
BanguiMalouloud Mahamat Amat, 30, walks in his former coumpound of 5Kilo, in Bangui, where plants obvertook his house and his family's that hosted 43 people and was attacked by Anti Balakas on the 23rd of March by handgenade. 8 members of his family died, including 2 brothers. He is the only one of the family who stayed in Bangui.
A young girls stands in the doorway of a house, two days after a member of her family was killed by a grenade said to be launched by a member of Séléka. Bangui, Central African Rep
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William Daniels—Panos for TIME
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