Tragedy of the Central African Republic: diamonds in the soil, poverty on the streets

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The Central African Republic is regularly held up as a country rich in diamonds, uranium and other valuable minerals. But despite the wealth of its natural resources this former French colony remains one of the poorest countries on earth. As French troops try to restore order in this strife-torn country, Mediapart's Thomas Cantaloube reports from the mining area of Carnot and discovers the reasons why prosperity continues to be so elusive.

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Félix, 64, has the sickly look of someone who knows his days are numbered by HIV/AIDS. He is sitting in the porch of his modest dwelling in Carnot, the third largest town in the Central African Republic (CAR), with its two rooms, a single window and the luxury of breeze-block walls. Yet when he talks about the 50 years he spent as a diamond miner, his eyes light up. “Before, from the 1970s to the 1990s, there was enthusiasm. There was money, we could give some to friends. Now it is catastrophic – we have not known anything like it since independence,” he says.