CAR Muslims trapped in the 'Alcatraz of Africa'

2014-04-04 09:54

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Bangui - "This is hell within hell," says Ibrahim al Awad, his sandals sloshing through red mud on his way through a suburb of Bangui that has become a desperate refuge from sectarian violence.

Ibrahim is headed for a mosque that now acts as a refugee camp for around 2 500 Muslims fleeing attacks in the Central African Republic's capital and beyond.

As weeks of vigilante raids by mostly Christian militias have threatened to turn into a full-blown genocide, many of those sheltering in the mosque are trapped inside, too scared to leave.

"This is the Alcatraz of Africa," says Ibrahim.

The rainy season has started in Bangui, and Begoua, where the mosque is located, has turned into a muddy quagmire.

It is close to PK 12, a point north of the city that provides the only road out for tens of thousands of Muslims fleeing the bloodshed.

The tense PK 12 area has seen frequent, murderous raids against Muslims by the "anti-balaka" militia in a campaign of retribution for atrocities carried out by mostly Muslim Seleka rebels who seized power for 10 months in March 2013.

Inside the gloom of the dingy mosque, many lie prone under blankets with vacant stares, scarcely reacting to the sight of visitors.

Gold and diamonds

"This morning one of us was shot dead by the anti-balaka and another was wounded," Ibrahim whispers, pointing out a body covered by a white veil. He lifts a corner to show a lifeless man named Aminou, who was gunned down when he went out to buy sugar.

Stepping outside the mosque, Ibrahim is greeted by two men hooded against the downpour and armed with bows and arrows.

Ibrahim is a leading member of a protective district committee set up by local Muslims, and these farmers are using their ancestral weaponry to help protect the area.

Ibrahim's family origins are in Sudan. He speaks Arabic and finds that English comes more easily to him than French, the language of the former colonial power in this deeply troubled, landlocked nation.

He has lived in the Central African Republic for a decade, prospecting for gold. "It's good business," he says. Gold and diamonds are part of the natural wealth of the CAR, but production of such resources has been hampered by decades of corrupt rule, coups, army uprisings, rebel insurgencies and strikes.

Most of the country's population of about 4.6 million derives no benefit from the mineral wealth, while the latest conflict has displaced about a quarter of them and hundreds of thousands of people face starvation, according to UN agencies and aid charities.

For now, everyone in Begoua is simply thinking of escape.

Ibrahim would like to join his wife in Bambari, a town in central CAR. Others hope to flee for the provinces or join tens of thousands of refugees in neighbouring Cameroon and Chad.

An agonising wait

Many fled here in desperate haste with just a few measly belongings as the sectarian violence suddenly engulfed neighbourhoods that had lived peacefully for generations.

The International Organisation for Migration and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees have sent staff to register candidates for departure from Begoua, but most have an agonising wait ahead of them.

"They tell us now that we'll have to wait longer - two to four weeks," says Ibrahim.

There is no question of going anywhere alone. The route out of town is carefully watched by anti-balaka fighters, who are liable to kill any Muslims without a moment's hesitation.

Contingents of French and African forces try desperately to keep the road open and free from violence, but their 8 000 troops are not enough to keep the peace. Ibrahim points out the road - turned into a stream by the downpour.

"One way out - towards death," he says.
Read more on:    un  |  central african republic  |  central africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

No show for Zim's Mujuru

2014-11-26 23:51
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Hottie of the day: Nicole Meyer!

Nicole is the cover girl for the 2014 edition of SA Swimsuit! Check out some smoking hot pics of here here.

 
 

Men24.com

11 things men don’t know about their clothes
Hilarious mortal kombat elevator prank!
This is how the Top Gear presenters spend their £55 million!
Thirty and still single? There’s hope!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The Moon has moved into your sign, emphasizing the need to connect things to work together. There is a tendency to focus too far...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.