UNITED NATIONS (February 28, 2007) — Mia Farrow says she encountered burned villages and terrified refugees with no help in sight on her recent trip to Central African Republic and Chad.
At a news conference Tuesday, the 62-year-old actress and U.N. Goodwill ambassador recalled impressions from her visits earlier this month to villages and refugee camps along border areas where violence has spilled over from Sudan’s Darfur region.
Farrow said her convoy stopped on a seemingly desolate road in northwestern Central African Republic after passing “burned village after burned village after burned village — it was numbing and dispiriting.”
She said she heard that people were living along the roadside, even though the area appeared to be uninhabited, and that they might appear if the unarmed convoy paused.
After waiting silently for 15 minutes, people began to emerge “like specters, emaciated, with remnants of clothes or no clothes at all, terrified,” she told a U.N. news conference.
From talking to them, Farrow said she learned the people were too scared to return to their villages and rebuild — but they were also afraid of who might find them in hiding.
At the sound of a vehicle approaching on the road, “you could hear the pounding of feet on the hard clay ground as 300 people vanished, vanished into the bush in sheer terror,” she said.
“This is an extremely traumatized population and neglected,” Farrow said, adding that some of the people have been living in the bush for more than a year.
She said that if an international peacekeeping force was not sent to protect civilians in the region, “you’re going to see two collapsed states, which will serve no one.”
Eastern Chad is wracked by clashes between government forces and Sudan-based Chadian rebels and cross-border attacks on civilians by Sudan-based militia. There also has been fighting in northeastern Central African Republic but the government and rebel groups recently agreed to negotiate an end to their conflict.