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Fighting for rights in Bangassou

Central African Republic, October 1, 2011

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  • Our team helped Helene fight the illegal arrest of her husband. Photo: John Cunningham/Mercy Corps

Helene Ngomet’s husband had been out walking one evening on the street of Bangassou, the small town in the Central African Republic where they lived. The local police stopped him and took him from the street.

They accused him of being a stranger in town who was up to no good, despite his protestations to the contrary, and put him in jail.

For Helene, it was as if her husband had simply disappeared. He had no way to communicate with her.

When Helene eventually discovered what had happened, she used the support she received from Mercy Corps and what she had learnt from our team about human rights and the law to challenge the police.

Assisted by members of the community group set up by Mercy Corps and our team facilitator, she insisted her husband could not be arrested without evidence of wrongdoing — that in fact he had been illegally arrested. She was also able to prove her husband was indeed a local man.

Helene’s husband was released without charge and with no further consequences. So life returned to normal.

Things could have been very different indeed for Helene, her children and her husband if our human rights information and education programme had not been running. Real programme, real experience, real result — normal life maintained for an ordinary family. This was Mercy Corps making a difference. This was Helene being the change.