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

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmakingi
X
Bernard Shusman
May 24, 2015 2:55 PM
According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.
Video

Video Effort Underway to Limit Damage from California Oil Spill

Cleanup crews are working around the clock to remove oil from the waters off the coastal city of Santa Barbara, in California. About 380,000 liters of oil may have leaked out before a rupture in an onshore, underground pipeline was discovered Tuesday. The environmental disaster hit the popular West Coast resort area before the Memorial Day weekend. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports investigators have yet to determine what caused the incident.

VOA Blogs