CAR: “There’s Not One Single Muslim Left In Bocaranga”

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By Médecins Sans Frontières / Reliefweb.int

Djamilou from Central African Republic has been working as a logistician in Niger. Djamilou came to Paris between assignments in Africa for MSF. He told us his story. He spoke of the violence and the plight of his family scattered among three different countries after fleeing from Central Africa. His testimony illustrates only too well the suffering endured by our Central African teams.

 

I grew up in Bocaranga in north Central Africa. Until not long ago, there were no problems between Christians and Muslims. Christians invited us to their Christmas and New Year celebrations and they came to celebrate with us during Ramadan. There were no barriers and we lived peacefully together. School was mixed and we had fun and played football. There were couples that were mixed too.

Like lots of my relatives, I became a shopkeeper after my final school exams — my family had several shops in Bocaranga. But in 2008, famine struck our region and Médecins Sans Frontières opened a therapeutic feeding centre. And that’s how I came to be hired as an assistant logistician by MSF!

When the Bocaranga programme closed in 2011, I was transferred to Paoua where I was appointed hospital logistician/biomedical technician, and then to Bangui where I was an interim logistician. My work consisted in supporting various field programmes in Bria, Paoua and Carnot. Once I’d gained experience, I provided support to international logisticians on first-assignment with MSF. I also handled small immunisation emergencies and WatSan (water and sanitation) activities, filled in for logisticians and was programme biomedical advisor.

I continued to progress and went to Burkina Faso as an international staff logistician to work on malnutrition prevention and assistance to refugee programmes. That’s where I was when rebel group Seleka seized power in Bangui in March 2013.

When I returned to CAR two weeks later, the atmosphere had changed and things weren’t quite so serene. I couldn’t get to Bocaranga because of the insecurity so I stayed in Bangui providing support to the MSF coordination team who sent me every now and again to Bria in the east of the country to carry out exploratory missions and open programmes.

The country was sinking fast and abuse against all communities was rife. The Christian community bore most of the brunt but we Muslims suffered too. I myself was held up on my way out of the MSF office and my motorbike, ID papers, phone and money were stolen. My family in Bocaranga were held at ransom twice. There was growing mistrust and it just wasn’t like before.

On December 5, 2013, Anti-Balaka Christian militias attacked Bangui. There was shooting everywhere and the streets were deserted. I was frightened and I didn’t leave my home for several days. I lived in Christian neighbourhood Benz-Vi where everyone knew I was a Muslim. I tried to set my mind at rest. I said to myself, I’m a humanitarian worker, my neighbours will take that into consideration, because it’s obvious I have nothing to do with the crisis that’s been plaguing our country for months.

But the anti-Balaka militias gradually took over more and more of Bangui’s districts. Muslims were hunted down and murdered solely for their religion and when the Muslims in Benz-Vi began to be targeted, I realised I had to get away.

MSF offered me an assignment in Niger. When the airport in Bangui re-opened, my colleagues sent a car for me and on December 18 I left.

Several weeks later, my little brother who I’d been living with in Bangui was attacked in Benz-Vi. He was lynched and left for dead in the street. The French soldiers who found him saw he was still breathing and took him to Bangui Community Hospital where MSF was working. They managed to revive him and he survived. Some time later, I was able to get him out of CAR and send him to Cameroon.

I thought that our problems were over because, up until then, the violence against Muslims was confined to Bangui. But in January, it spread to the rest of the country and finally Bocaranga where my family lived. When the Seleka withdrew from the town, Christian militias attacked and the Muslims fled for their lives in a state of total panic. Some of my family managed to get to Chad and the rest to Cameroon. Our shops, homes and businesses were looted and systematically ransacked. We have nothing left.

There’s not one single Muslim left in Bocaranga.

My family is scattered among three different countries.

Read the rest here…

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