REINEKE FORD   ||   NEWS UPDATES

Thousands of Muslims stuck in C. African Republic

Comment: Off

In this photo taken on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, Muslims pray outside a building in the besieged town of Boda, Central African Republic. There is only one neighborhood in Boda where Muslims are safe from the bullets and machetes of Christian militia fighters. Those who venture out have been killed, their throats slit or their cars showered in gunfire. The town is home to one of the largest Muslim communities left in Central African Republic, though their plight is mirrored throughout the country. The about 4,000 Muslims who remain here are suffering in isolation and say they just want to leave for good after months of being targeted by the militiamen. (AP Photo/Krista Larson)

In this photo taken on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, Muslims pray outside a building in the besieged town of Boda, Central African Republic. There is only one neighborhood in Boda where Muslims are safe from the bullets and machetes of Christian militia fighters. Those who venture out have been killed, their throats slit or their cars showered in gunfire. The town is home to one of the largest Muslim communities left in Central African Republic, though their plight is mirrored throughout the country. The about 4,000 Muslims who remain here are suffering in isolation and say they just want to leave for good after months of being targeted by the militiamen. (AP Photo/Krista Larson)

In this photo taken on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, Ousmane Nana, shows where he was shot in the arm by Christian fighters in the besieged town of Boda, Central African Republic. There is only one neighborhood in Boda where Muslims are safe from the bullets and machetes of Christian militia fighters. Those who venture out have been killed, their throats slit or their cars showered in gunfire. The town is home to one of the largest Muslim communities left in Central African Republic, though their plight is mirrored throughout the country. The about 4,000 Muslims who remain here are suffering in isolation and say they just want to leave for good after months of being targeted by the militiamen. (AP Photo/Krista Larson)

In this photo taken on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, children play outside a mosque in the besieged town of Boda, Central African Republic. There is only one neighborhood in Boda where Muslims are safe from the bullets and machetes of Christian militia fighters. Those who venture out have been killed, their throats slit or their cars showered in gunfire. The town is home to one of the largest Muslim communities left in Central African Republic, though their plight is mirrored throughout the country. The about 4,000 Muslims who remain here are suffering in isolation and say they just want to leave for good after months of being targeted by the militiamen. (AP Photo/Krista Larson)

Buy AP Photo Reprints

BODA, Central African Republic (AP) — There is only one neighborhood in Boda where Muslims are safe from the bullets and machetes of Christian militia fighters. Many who ventured out were killed, their throats slit or their cars showered in gunfire.

Even the dead must obey: Muslim bodies are buried behind an old warehouse because the traditional Muslim cemetery is now off limits.

Boda is home to one of the largest Muslim communities left in Central African Republic. About 4,000 Muslims are trapped here and they say they are suffering and just want to leave after months of being targeted by the militia. Their plight is mirrored throughout the country.

Aliou Alidu stays inside the boundaries of Boda’s Muslim neighborhood even as the 18-year-old’s arms and legs throb from deep burns. Days earlier, his home was set ablaze by a Christian mob and he survived death by crawling out a window. There is no pain medicine here. The only doctors live on the Christian side of town, a trip he says is more likely to kill him than his burns.

There used to be a man who could link the two neighborhoods — a Christian who had long ago converted to Islam. He is now dead, along with hopes here that these two communities may ultimately reconcile.

“For generations, our families lived together and even intermarried. Now you want to kill us all?” laments Mahamat Awal, Boda’s mayor, who is among those stuck in this town 100 miles (160 kilometers) southwest of the capital.

He meets regularly with the French forces in town and the Christian fighters known as the anti-Balaka. At each meeting the militiamen make their point clear: Every Muslim must leave the town without exception — even the mayor.

Nearly 300,000 people already have fled the sectarian violence that erupted in Central African Republic in early December when anger erupted against the Muslim rebels known as Seleka, who had overthrown the government. When they fled from power in late January, civilians turned on their Muslim neighbors, accusing them of having collaborated with the brutal regime.

Despite the mass evacuations, the United Nations warns that about 15,000 Muslims remain blockaded “in an extremely dangerous and untenable situation” such as in Boda.

As a result, peacekeepers and humanitarian agencies face “terrible dilemmas such as choosing between unwillingly aiding the ‘cleansing’ of confined Muslim populations, or leaving them — against their will — in places where they are in real danger of being slaughtered en masse,” Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said after a recent visit to the capital.

In Bangui, the capital, the several thousand Muslims who remain say they don’t step outside their last remaining neighborhoods and even then some have been killed hundreds of meters (yards) away from the area mosque. And in the southwest, some 1,000 Muslims are still sheltering at a Catholic church, too scared even to let their children play soccer for fear that a stray ball could lead them outside where they could be attacked by Christian militiamen.

“People are desperately wanting to leave because they’re in fear for their lives, and they haven’t

Comments

comments

About the Author