13 Jan 2014

Extreme violence and religious hatred – another day in CAR

Even locals, it seems, are afraid to take you into Bolulata. Abdul, our guide, says: “No outsider has been in there for three weeks. I’ll take you to the edge, wait in the road and meet you when you come out.”

This, the very same Abdul who yesterday, on camera, was threatening to burn down every Christian church in the area. So Bolulata – a Christian district on the outskirts of Bangui – is not for him.

But then again, it’s not for anybody.

Leaving Abdul behind we walk into a place which is so quiet that a lizard scuttling along a brick wall startles us.

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Every single building here has been smashed up or burned, or both. In its square, stands the shell of the evangelical church. Yesterday at around 9am a Muslim mob from Abdul’s district set fire to the place. There’s nothing left.

The church bell lies blackened in the ash, the stumps of pews and charred wooden candlesticks are all that remains. Yet against all odds, brave individuals who fled this area to the vast refugee camp of Christians, sneak back in here during daylight to salvage what they can.

“The Muslims have grenades, rockets and Kalashnikovs,” says a former resident who sensibly wishes to remain anonymous. “They came and destroyed everything. They went door to door. We had to get out. We have no militia here to defend us.”

That is merely one district where the violence has been extreme and the entire area is now depopulated.

You will of course also find plenty of Muslim businesses bombed and looted by Christian mobs on many a mosque as well.

The Christian militias know that the Muslim president is ousted and they are suddenly confident. They do not have many weapons but they are the 80 per cent majority here.

Their fighters are adorned with juju pouches which some claim contain the flesh of men they have knifed and macheted to death. It is juju: effectively a belief in magical powers of all manner of bizarre adornments; straw wigs, Father Christmas hats, women’s wigs – you name it.

There is also something much more obvious and depressingly familiar which is straightforward religious hatred.

Colonel Dieudonne of the Christian militia says: “Muslims have no place here. CAR is for central Africans. Muslims are from Chad and Sudan and they should go home.”

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