Africa

'I'll be last Muslim in CAR'

  • 10 February 2014
  • From the section Africa
Woman weeping
Human Rights workers say at least 10 people were killed in Bangui over the weekend

A government minister in the Central African Republic, Gaston Makouzemba, has warned there is a risk of a genocide as communities fight each other on religious and ethnic lines. All communities have been affected by the violence and now many Muslims are fleeing the country, afraid for their lives. One imam in the capital Bangui shared his fears with the BBC's Newsday programme:

This spate of violence against Muslims started in December - they have been killing us with machetes and firearms. All the Muslims have taken refuge in one neighbourhood, known as Kilometre 5.

Muslims from other countries have already fled - take a look at my list: The Chadians have gone; the Cameroonians have gone; the Senegalese; the Nigeriens from Niger have gone; the Nigerians; the Malians have gone. Those that have been left behind are us, the Central Africans.

I was born and bred in Bangui - my father was a Central African, my mother was a Central African.

My family came to the capital in 1946, it was my parents' generation that cleared the bush in Kilometre 5 and turned it into an urban dwelling area.

The anti-balaka vigilantes have been targeting us. They've burned most of the mosques in the capital, only a handful of mosques remain untouched in our neighbourhood.

Mobs are targeting Muslim civilians in Bangui

I don't want to leave Bangui, I want to be the last Central African Muslim to leave the country or at least the last Muslim to be buried here. This country is the last resting place of both my father and mother.

'Too dangerous'

It's fine if you are called John, Peter, Mary or Martin but things get ugly when you first name is Mohammed, Ousmane or Ibrahim - chances are you will end up in a hit list. This violence is waged by thugs calling themselves anti-balaka.

Bangui is losing its business community which is made up largely of Muslims - they've been ransacking Muslim shops.

Commodity prices have gone up, a bunch of salad will cost you 200 CFA Francs (40 cents; 25p) - twice as much as a little while ago. A bar of soap is worth 100 CFA Francs (20 cents; 13p), again twice as much as before.

Buying meat? Don't even think about it, there is none. The Fulani and nomadic Chadians that used to drive their cattle to Bangui have decided to head for Cameroon because there's too much violence here.

My wife and my children have left the country, it's too dangerous for them to stay with me. Only the male members of the Muslim communities have decided to stay and protect their possessions.

We Muslims of the Central African Republic cannot leave our country. If they want to kill us in Kilometre 5, our neighbourhood, so be it - we have no weapons but are ready to accept our fate because we believe in God and we are confident that God will protect us.

We watch [the French troops] patrolling along the main streets of the city but they will not come into our neighbourhood to protect us. We are alive only by the grace of God.

The imam has not been named in order to protect his personal security.

Around the BBC