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Central African Republic

    October 28, 2014

    By Joanne Mariner, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International

    In Bangui’s Nguingo neighbourhood, up the Oubangui river from the city center, people are scared.

    “There are rumors that the anti-balaka are going to attack again this afternoon,” a local resident told me when I visited there on Wednesday.

    “They want to teach us a lesson.”

    Over the past year, the Central African Republic has become notorious for the intensity of its sectarian violence. After the majority-Muslim Seleka government left power in January 2014, a wave of ethnic cleansing swept the country, leaving much of the territory entirely empty of Muslims. Thousands were killed. The seleka have also been responsible for serious abuses in various parts of the country including in the capital Bangui.

    January 21, 2014
    Muslim women and children take shelter in a church in Boali, north of the country's capital Bangui.© ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images
    By Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Adviser at Amnesty International. 

    In the small town of Boali, 100km north of the capital Bangui, the Muslim neighbourhoods are eerily silent, completely empty of their inhabitants. Every single home has been thoroughly looted. Even the front doors have been removed and carted away.

    Most of the Muslim residents have fled the town, forcibly displaced by vicious attacks carried out by so-called anti-balaka militias. We found more than 800 people who have not yet managed to leave. They are sheltering in the local church, where an impressive young priest is leading by example of inter-faith and neighbourly solidarity.One young man told us about an anti-balaka attack in Boali on Friday 17 January which left five dead and 20 injured. He recounted how, at around mid-day young men armed with machetes burst into the family home.

    December 16, 2013

    Susanna Flood, Director of Media at Amnesty International, blogs from Bangui

    Her voice began to choke and then the tears began to flow down her face as she calmly and steadily recounted the long list of names of all the women and children killed in her village when the anti-balaka struck a week ago.

    Sitting in a darkened hospital ward at the Hôpital Communautaire, she gracefully removed her headscarf and revealed the stitches laced across her scalp where the machete had struck. Alongside her was her four-year-old daughter with a matching wound on her head, also the victim of machete attacks.

    Nearly everyone in her village near Bangui, the Central African Republic’s capital city, had been wiped out in these early strikes by the anti-balaka militia who unleashed the carnage that has since been wrought on Bangui.  

    We met her one week after she had suffered those attacks and she told us what happened in her village with amazing calm and dignity. In her ward were numerous women also recovering from the various machete and bullet wounds inflicted by unknown attackers in the violence that has run riot across Bangui and the nearby villages.

    December 12, 2013

    Joanne Mariner, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International, blogs from Bangui

    One of the most depressing aspects of the ongoing violence in the Central African Republic is its symmetry.

    Christian and Muslim militia alike are carrying out equally vicious attacks. And members of both communities, while denouncing each other’s crimes, will tell you that their own people are acting in self defence.

    With each new outrage, the pattern of tit-for-tat atrocities becomes harder to break.

    The day before yesterday I interviewed a Christian man who recounted how he was nearly killed in a raid last week on the outskirts of Bangui, the country’s capital. Shot in the side at close range, he survived by playing dead; he claims that others from his neighbourhood were not as lucky.

    “It was the Peuhls,” he said, referring to an ethnic group of nomadic Muslim herders. “They were armed with Kalashnikovs.”

    December 11, 2013

    Susanna Flood, Amnesty International’s Director of Media, blogs from Bangui

    There is hatred in their eyes as they spit their words out at you: “Djotodia doit partir”, Michel Djotodia, transitional President of the Central African Republic, “must go”.

    These same words were emblazoned in graffiti on walls around a small unremarkable mosque near the Assemblée Nationale, on the Avenue de l’Independence – one of Bangui’s principal roads that is heavily patrolled by the French, African (members of the Multinational Force for Central Africa – FOMAC) and ex-Seleka troops, where a revenge mob had gathered.

    They had burned the mosque, as well as the Imam’s house. And they were running riot, removing anything that could be taken from the building.

    They pulled the corrugated iron from the roof and fled with their trophies into the neighbouring quarter of Fouh.

    Others, men and women together, gathered in the dusty grounds, shouting encouragement to the mob, beating at the walls with whatever instruments they could find or writing their graffiti in large letters on the remaining walls, declaring their hatred of the president.

    December 06, 2013
    People stand near bodies found lying in a mosque and in its surrounding streets in the Central African capital Bangui. (c)SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images

    Susanna Flood, Amnesty International’s Director of Media, blogs from the Central African Republic as our current research mission continues

    On the surface, everything is quiet in Bangui, the tiny capital city of the Central African Republic. Strangely quiet. But behind this silence, stories of devastation are emerging. The city is calm but people are afraid.

    There are virtually no cars on the road and an eerie silence is hanging over the city.  And then you hear a short burst of gunfire coming from one of the various quartiers which have been beset by fighting since early yesterday or French fighter jets do a sudden and unexpected fly-pass, making their presence in the city known.

    There is no clear toll of those killed or wounded in the attacks between so-called anti-Balaka, said to be loyal to ousted President Bozizé, and the former Seleka forces of new President Djotodia. But those in the know say at least 200 have been killed, making it the largest death toll in one day since this crisis erupted.