News / Africa

Muslims Flee CAR Violence, Economy Suffers

A Central African woman displaced by inter-communal violence takes care of her twin baby boys at a camp for displaced persons at Bangui M'Poko International Airport, Feb. 11, 2014.
A Central African woman displaced by inter-communal violence takes care of her twin baby boys at a camp for displaced persons at Bangui M'Poko International Airport, Feb. 11, 2014.
Nick Long
As tens of thousands of Muslims flee the violence in the Central African Republic, the non-governmental organization Oxfam reports that food security and the economy are taking a major hit.  Many of the shopowners, herders and traders in the CAR are Muslim.

The Seleka rebel alliance that took power in Bangui last year, but then continued looting and killing may have been the worst thing that has happened to Muslims in the CAR.

Most of the Arabic-speaking militia’s core members happen to share their faith, although there was nothing religious about the Seleka’s objectives.

In the past two months the Seleka has been chased out of most of the western CAR, while Muslims civilians have suffered vicious reprisals.

Now almost all of them have closed their shops in Bangui, and are heading to neighboring countries in trucks or are waiting to be evacuated at the airport.

  • A DRC soldier, part of an African peacekeeping force, patrols along a street in Bangui, Feb. 12, 2014.
  • DRC soldiers, part of an African peacekeeping force, patrol along a street in Bangui, Feb. 12, 2014.
  • People collect food distributed by aid agencies at a camp for people displaced by the recent unrest, at the Mpoko international airport of Bangui, Feb. 12, 2014.
  • People displaced by the recent unrest collect food distributed by aid agencies at an IDP camp at the Mpoko international airport of Bangui, Feb. 12, 2014.
  • A boy displaced by inter-communal violence walks past a vendor in a camp for displaced persons at Bangui M'Poko International Airport, Feb. 11, 2014.

At the Kilometre Cinq market, the capital’s biggest wholesale market, VOA asked one of the few remaining Muslim traders, Idriss Saleh, where the meat market has gone.

There’s no beef now, he said, the cattle herders have gone with their herds to Cameroon or Chad because there has been a lot of aggression against them, and they do not have security, so they have left.

Idriss has a hardware store and is still doing a little business, but not for long.

He said everyone has gone.  Nearly all the Muslim traders have left, and those still here have already packed their bags and are going to leave.  As for himself, Idriss said he has packed and was waiting for the convoy.

As Muslim traders flee the country and meat is in short supply, a solitary Muslim butcher waits in his stall, Bangui, CAR, Feb. 11, 2104.(Nicholas Long/VOA)As Muslim traders flee the country and meat is in short supply, a solitary Muslim butcher waits in his stall, Bangui, CAR, Feb. 11, 2104.(Nicholas Long/VOA)
x
As Muslim traders flee the country and meat is in short supply, a solitary Muslim butcher waits in his stall, Bangui, CAR, Feb. 11, 2104.(Nicholas Long/VOA)
As Muslim traders flee the country and meat is in short supply, a solitary Muslim butcher waits in his stall, Bangui, CAR, Feb. 11, 2104.(Nicholas Long/VOA)
​VOA found one butcher, Mamadou Ali Zairo, with some offal for sale.  Prices have soared, he said.

"Before the troubles we have had, you could buy a steer or a heifer here for the equivalent of about $200-$300, but now it would cost about $500 or $600," said Zairo.

Who will replace the Muslim traders?  They dominated the wholesale market and many had come from abroad, with capital that most Central Africans did not have.

"The Christians are jealous, they do not know how to do business, they can not buy anything worth $4 or $6.  They just buy things worth a dollar or half a dollar, he claims, whereas Muslims are buying goods worth $8 or $10," said Zairo.

He insisted he would carry on and he hoped the government would sort out the problems so that his fellow Muslims could come back.  He thought the Chadian government could also help its citizens return.

Oxfam, working with other NGOs including Action against Hunger, has done a survey of the Kilometre Cinq market.  Oxfam researcher Steve explained their main finding.

"Many, many of the large wholesalers who really control the food market, who import the food from Chad and from Cameroon which all communities and all faiths depend on, have fled.  There were 40 big wholesalers in Bangui, roughly, who imported most of the food, and we have found less than a handful remaining and even those thought they would be leaving in the next few days unless security was rapidly re-established," he said.

As a result, there will be less food all round.

Oxfam is predicting devastating consequences for all communities in the country as supplies of staple foods dry up.  

But some people might benefit.  VOA visited a town about 80 kilometers from Bangui on Sunday and spoke to a man there who preferred to withhold his identity but was identified by neighbors as a local chief of the anti-balaka militia who have chased out the Muslims.

He said the locality has got itself organized, and has decided that from now on because the Muslims were no longer here, their shops would be allocated to young Christians who have business plans and are capable of running businesses here, while Muslims’ houses would be reserved for government officials.

Since there is currently no CAR army and hardly any police or administrative authority, it seems likely the anti-balaka will have a big say in who gets the shops and houses.

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs