Central Africa Republic (CAR) is currently fragile and has been this way since its independence from France in 1960, hence its recurring position on the list of 17 most dangerous countries in the world. I have now visited this country, and I doubt I will be returning anytime soon.
Let’s be honest here, I do not expect you to up and leave your comfort zone and just head straight to Bangui, but if for some reason you find yourself there or when it is a lot more stable, you should surely check these places out.
Eating in Bangui
I stayed at the Hotel Ledger Plaza in Bangui, so I had most of my meals at the hotel. The one time I ate out was at Carre Gourmand and I must say I loved the food. I ordered plantain (as a sure babe) and steak and it tasted heavenly. I could have just been hungry, but I promise you it’s worth trying.
I met a few people during my stay and each person’s ordeal stood out, so I fused it all into one to give a better understanding of the life of an average CAR citizen.
Let’s talk about Pierre from Republique du Centrafrique.
I’ve lived here all my life. For 30 years and I can tell you the resilience in my country is one out of this world, as far as I am concerned. Every morning we set out to make a living despite the numerous oppositions to doing so.
Every day, I set out to my small tailoring shop along the streets of Kabadoro. It’s a beautiful city. Everyone’s like family here. I’m preparing for the Christmas orders. This means I get more customers. I’m positive it’s going to be a super day! I hadn’t always wanted to be a tailor. I wanted to be a civil engineer but CAR isn’t the place you choose your career based on passion. That’s a luxury!
I couldn’t afford the tuition required to school in Burkina Faso for engineering so I had to learn tailoring from my neighbour’s shop. For me, I count this a blessing. I’ve been given this opportunity so I’ll do all I can to make it work. No day passes by without me thinking of ways to better my work. It’s how I’ve gone this far with 20 customers a month. Well more than half of them owe me as they can barely afford a 3 square meal. But that’s a story for another day.
M. Fred comes to my shop often to chat. We’re neighbours. This time around, he’s asked that I sew 3 clothes with a promise to pay on Christmas Day. I’ll surely need the money then so I am taking the job. We have a 20:00h curfew, so heading home early is wise.
I have been thinking of expanding my business. Have another trade in the market side. I can sell drinks to the people as it’s almost dry season means it’d get really hot. As hot as 40•c. I have a small house I just built in Kabadoro. I’m almost done paying for my house so this extra trade would surely come in handy.
Heading out, I notice the streets are suddenly empty! We all hear rumours of conflict in neighbouring towns and have grown to call them rumours, as we never get attacked and we hear nothing on the radio. Just gossip and talk.
The government’s power doesn’t cover my city which means they only have a say in Bangui so it’s only wise that I take care of myself. We’ve had cases of insurgencies but it’s never blown out of control. Nothing the UN and Minusca can’t handle.
At the end of the street where I reside, I see a mob of youths torching down houses. I’m a little- confused. Like i said, we’ve never been attacked, ever! So I walk closer only to see M. Fred (remember him from yesterday?) screaming in our local dialect, ‘Sango’ “burn that house. He’s an infidel. He thinks he’s better than us because he has a business. Burrrn it!” And right before my very eyes my house was broken into, looted, destroyed and burned.
Suddenly I hear my name. It’s M. Fred charging towards me as he yells for his friends to get me. I’ve never run that fast in my whole life. I ran towards my shop. What was I thinking? I just wanted to be alive to be very honest. Approaching my shop I see my sewing machine on the street. My shop is on fire. How did we get here? One minute, all was fine. Where do I begin?! That’s all I have. Everything is gone.
I can hear sounds of the mob behind me, bullets, glass shattering and screams. I need to get to safety.
After what seemed like 5 minutes, I wake up without a clue as to how I got to this oh so familiar place. I’m at the IDP camp with 60,000 others. One attack and it’s all gone. I don’t even know where to start from. I can see a few familiar faces. We’re constructing huts from dried leaves. It might rain this week so I have to be ready. There’s hope. I’m alive. I can get by. Who am I kidding? This pep talk isn’t helping.
The humanitarians here seem to be used to this. Taking a walk around I see there’s a water bladder. So we have all we need. I have 50,000 CFA from my shop with me. I should be able to start a little business here. When it’s safe enough. I’ll go to the city to get things and sell. I’ll get by.
Speaking with the other families at the IDP, everyone has a different story with similar feelings. We all feel betrayed by our government. We feel abandoned. We don’t know how long we’ll be in the camps. The children here are getting comfortable some are artists and it breaks my heart when I see their drawings showing men with arms breaking into homes. I can’t blame them. It’s their only reality.
I’m hopeful it’ll all get better. It’s all I can do. Remain hopeful because nothing stays the same in CAR.