A convoy of 18 trucks carrying an estimated 1,300 Muslims from a threatened refugee enclave in the capital city of the Central African Republic was expected to arrive safely on April 29 in the northern towns of Kabo and Moyan-Sido. They were being escorted by foreign peacekeepers from the African Union Mission in CAR (MISCA). The mission began April 27.
However, on their three-day journey through the nation’s communal warfare the convoy was attacked by grenade-throwing militiamen believed to be Christians identified as anti-Balaka.
Two passengers died and seven were wounded in the attack.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) which provided logistical support for the convoy condemned the April 27 attack on the convoy in Dissikou.
Giuseppe Loprete, the IOM chief of mission in Bangui, described the events that unfolded after they load the refugees who had been trapped in a part of Bangui called PK-12 by armed Christian militias.
Muslims trapped in the capital
“They were all stranded, trapped in PK-12 since December,” Loprete said. “Basically, they were trying to leave Bangui when everything happened and they couldn’t. They’ve been surrounded by the anti-Balaka, and basically they were trapped for four months.”
The convoy's destination was Kabo and Moyen-Sido in northeastern Central African Republic, home to the majority of the civilians in the convoy.
Halfway through the three-day journey, they were attacked.
Loprete says they do not have all of the details of the attack. However, the two people who were killed have been identified as a 27-year-old woman and a 58-year-old man.
“UN-MISCA managed to respond to the attack so they could continue, and they stopped later on when they were in a safer area.
“The problem is there is no safe area now in the Central African Republic, so they are moving into an area of controlled alternatively by anti-Balaka, and Seleka,” said Loprete.
Although thousands have fled the country’s four months of violence, this convoy was not part of a massive evacuation, Loprete said.
“PK-12 was a very different situation that we were trying to solve since December. The actual people from PK-12 are in the contained site here in Bangui, and they will most probably go back to PK-12 in the following days or weeks.”
More Muslims staying in Bangui
There is still a Muslim community present in Bangui located in PK-5, in the third district noted Loprete. They are inside and around the central Mosque.
“There is no plan to evacuate them or to relocate them,” Loprete said. “We want them to stay and they told us - also the government - that if security is guaranteed they don’t want to go.
“They want to stay in Bangui, but they want to be free to move. They want to be free to cross the road without being attacked by the anti-Balaka groups. They want to go to the market, and they want to have a normal life here as it was before December,” highlighted Loprete.