Elisabeth Blanche: journalist and mother

Bangui, Central African Republic
September 2016

Elisabeth Blanche Olofio worked as a journalist at the Be Oko radio station in the city of Bambari in the Central African Republic. When Seleka rebels advance the city in January 2013, she flees the violence together with her children.

She finds shelter with an uncle in a neighbouring village. But she gets sick. Devoid of information and medical care she decides to go back. She finds a city in chaos. Government buildings are looted; little is left from radio Be Oko and her own house. Her neighbours warn her the Seleka rebels are looking for her because of her work as a journalist. Or as others said, because she had a sharp tongue.

Elisabeth’s return quickly reaches the rebels too. Six of them go to her house and beat her incessantly with AK-47s until she stops moving. Bleeding and unconscious, she is left for dead. Neighbours rush her to the hospital where they are unable to provide her with the proper care. With the help of UNICEF, she is eventually taken to a hospital in Bangui for further treatment. At that time the rumours in the country are in full swing. Several media reported about her death. But although her condition is worrisome, she is alive.

Jean-Ignace Manengou, director of the Association of Central African Community Radio Stations (ARC) draws the attention of Free Press Unlimited to her case. They decide to support Elisabeth via the Reporters Respond emergency fund. She receives two thousand euro for her most pressing needs.

Both her physical and mental health rapidly decline in the months following the assault. In June 2014, Elisabeth dies at age 34 leaving her daughters Bertille (14) and Divine (10) orphaned.

Since then, Elisabeth's cousin Pierrette Blanche Lingapo takes care of the two girls. She describes her cousin as a fearless and determined journalist, but foremost as a loving and caring mother. Daughter Divine: "Mom always wished us a happy birthday on the radio. Then the whole village knew it was our birthday!" Now the only tangible memory they have of their mother is her passport.

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