On May 8 last year, Camille Lepage was photographing the conflict in the Central African Republic, traveling by motorbike with a militia group. The region, according to the UN warning, was on the verge of widespread genocide, "descending into complete chaos" (BBC). A photo on her Instagram showed a serene fog over a red-dirt road, like a mirage in the midst of escalated violence, as the cradled gun broke the calm.
Lepage was traveling with the anti-balaka, or "anti-machete" group, formed in response to attacks by Seleka groups on Christian communities that make-up about 50 percent of the CAR. Thirteen percent of the population practices Islam, according to the UN. Lepage, a 26-year old French photojournalist, hoped to bring awareness and compassion to the suffering in what the UNHCR calls the world's greatest humanitarian crisis - forgotten.
In an interview with PetaPixel, a photography website, Lepage spoke out against the silence of mainstream media over the conflict: "I can't accept that people's tragedies are silenced simply because no one can make money out of them," she said. "I decided to do it myself, and bring some light to them no matter what" (The Washington Post).
Four days after that quiet moment on the road in central Africa, Lepage was found dead in a vehicle driven by the anti-balaka rebels. According to her father, director of Radio Siriri, she was caught in the midst of heavy fighting between the two groups, while traveling near the border.
Her death is the first of a Western journalist covering a conflict that began in 2012 and as a sequel to the Bush War from 2003-2007. The present conflict has claimed tens of thousands and displaced nearly a million people. A little over half the country, 2.7 million people, are in need of humanitarian aid and assistance that is unavailable.
Refugees number 500,000, spread across Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. An estimated $613 million is needed in assistance, and only $85 million has been received.
Camille's coverage can be found on her website:
Central African Republic 'descending into chaos' - UN. (2013, November 26). BBC. Retrieved May 18, 2015, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25095471
Tharoor, I. (2013, May 13). RIP Camille Lepage, French photojournalist killed in Central African Republic. The Washington Post. Retrieved May 18, 2015, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/05/13/rip-camille-lepage-french-photojournalist-killed-in-central-african-republic/
UN: Central African Republic at risk of becoming the world's largest forgotten humanitarian crisis. (2015, April 27). Retrieved May 18, 2015, from http://www.unhcr.org/553e49ec6.html