Marie Noélla Sambelle was with her husband Gilbert Yalivenda for more than two decades. They had six children and saved for years to build a home of their own. But in 2014 Yalivenda was shot dead by Seleka rebels. His family seized the couple’s house and other possessions.
“After my husband was killed, I was kicked out of our house by his parents,” says Sambelle. “The parents of my husband said ‘all this property, it is not for you. It belongs to the members of our family’.”
In Central African Republic (CAR), when a man dies, his widow is sometimes evicted from their home and land by her husband’s relatives – a practice that is illegal in most cases. The toll that this dispossession takes on a woman and her children is amplified by a brutal conflict, a lack of social safety nets and diminishing family ties.
Thousands have been killed in CAR since 2013, when the Seleka – a predominantly Muslim coalition of rebels – overthrew the government of François Bozizé. The anti-Balaka, a mostly Christian militia that opposes the Seleka, has also committed grave atrocities. Attacks on civilians began to increase again in 2017 and now up to 80% of the country is under the control of armed groups.