“In order to be freed, I was forced to sell my cassava mill as well as my land”
It all began on September 11 around 11:00pm. Armed men — as it turns out, former Seleka rebels — came to my home because, according to them, I was hiding a homemade rifle [a type of small hunting rifle that is very common in the Central African Republic]. They searched everywhere, but could not find anything. Yet they still decided to detain me in order to “ask me a couple questions”, they said.The men drove me to a former inn, which currently serves as their headquarters and interrogation centre. Before Bozoum fell to the rebels, the inn had a dozen or so rooms. However, it was subsequently looted and the rooms were transformed into prison cells. As soon as I arrived, they bound my arms and legs together and locked me in a cell with other men. We stayed tied up in this way until the next day at around 2:00pm [according to our Observer, the video was shot at that time on September 12].“The most pathetic part of this whole story is that there’s a police station right in front of where we were sequestered”At that point, they untied me, but they still didn’t let me go. I had to buy my freedom by paying them 150,000 CFA [about 230 euros]. In order to pay this amount, I was forced to call my family and ask them to sell my cassava mill as well as my land. Those who, unlike me, did not have the “luck” of owning anything of value had to ask their families for help. In our group, two brothers that refused to give in to our captors were beaten – not just on their bodies but also on their faces. They eventually gave up and called friends to come and pay the ransom.As long as they did not get their money, the rebels weren’t releasing anyone. I was only able to go home on September 23. Until then, I was left to rot in a cell where I had to sleep on the ground.The most pathetic element of this whole story is that a police station is right in front of the former inn where we were sequestered. However, the police didn’t do anything. They lack weapons and have no authority over these guys. They were mere observers of this whole sad saga.The Seleka may be officially dissolved, but rebel groups remain, and they now only obey their immediate leaders and continue to sow terror wherever they go. Two self-anointed colonels, who control roughly two dozen men, are in control of Bozoum. They may not have many soldiers, but since they have weapons, they have all the power.