BANGUI - Reflecting the anguish of Muslims in Central Africa Republic, a Bangui Muslim imam has shared his appalling testimony about atrocities committed against Muslims in the strife-torn country.
“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,” a Bangui Imam told the BBC's Newsday program on Monday, February 10.
“This country is the last resting place of both my father and mother,” the anguished imam added.
Over the past weeks, thousands of terrified civilian Muslims fled for their lives to escape killings, looting and harassment by armed militias drawn from the Christian majority in the city.
Their flight follows months of escalating attacks on Muslims in the strife-torn republic.
Going from door to door, anti-balaka Christian militias have raided Muslim homes killing children and women and looting and vandalizing properties, the UN report revealed.
“The anti-balaka vigilantes have been targeting us,” he said
“They've burned most of the mosques in the capital, only a handful of mosques remain untouched in our neighborhood.”
Though thousands of Muslims fled their country, the imam, whose name was not identified by BBC’s report, refuses to leave, taking shelter with remaining Muslims in Kilometer 5; a Muslim majority district of Bangui.
“I'll be last Muslim in CAR,” he said.
“If they want to kill us in Kilometer 5, our neighborhood, 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,” he added.
In the strive-torn country, a Muslim name could cost a person his life.
“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,” the Muslim citizen complained.
“This violence is waged by thugs calling themselves anti-balaka.”
Watching the ongoing exodus of CAR Muslims, aid organizations have warned of a looming collapse of the market in the torn country.
According to Oxfam and Action Against Hunger, less than ten wholesalers remain in Bangui, as hundreds left.
“Bangui is losing its business community which is made up largely of Muslims - they've been ransacking Muslim shops,” the Imam said.
“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.”
Running for their lives, livestock traders like the Fulani and nomadic Chadians are not approaching Bangui anymore, the imam said.
“Buying meat? Don't even think about it, there is none,” the imam said.
The terrified family of the imam, which includes wife and children, has fled the country, “it's too dangerous for them to stay with me,” the father said.
“Only the male members of the Muslim communities have decided to stay and protect their possessions,” he added.
Though the French peacekeeping troops were deployed to cripple ongoing fighting in CAR, Muslims have repeatedly accused them of allowing Christian militias to retaliate from the Muslim community.
“We watch [the French troops] patrolling along the main streets of the city but they will not come into our neighborhood to protect us,” the imam said.
“We are alive only by the grace of God.”
The UN humanitarian agency says nearly 900 people have been killed in Bangui alone since violence escalated in early December.
The UN also says more than 800,000 people have been displaced.
As violence escalated in CAR, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said last week that it had opened an examination into crimes allegedly committed in the strive-torn country.
Related Links:Anti-Muslim Violence Escalates in CAR
Muslims Burnt in CAR's Bangui Streets
Reprisal Attacks Target CAR Muslims
Militias Kill Muslims Fleeing CAR
Children Targeted in CAR Violence: UNICEF