“Kilometre 5” (or Km-5) is normally a bustling business district in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. But since Christian militias started attacking the neighbourhood’s Muslim residents, Km-5 has become a lawless zone, with civilians only venturing outside when armed with machetes.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, Christian self-defence militias, which are fighting against members of the former Seleka rebellion that took control of Bangui in March, attacked the capital by entering via several different neighbourhoods. This coordinated operation, in which former guards of ousted former president François Bozizé also participated, took the ex-Seleka rebels by surprise. In the Km-5 neighbourhood, they attacked a mosque and 58 Muslims lost their lives. In total, at least 130 people were killed in the capital on Thursday alone. Christian militias accuse Muslims of supporting the ex-Seleka rebels.
On Thursday, our Observers in Bangui expressed concern that this operation might lead to retaliatory attacks and a further escalation in the inter-religious violence. Their fears do not appear to be unfounded. It has emerged that in Km-5 and several other neighbourhoods, civilians have taken up arms and reports have emerged of revenge attacks on Christian communities.
The images published below were taken by a local journalist and FRANCE 24 Observer Hervé Cyriaque Serefio, who managed to report from districts where it’s frequently too dangerous for foreign journalists to go.
"While fleeing, I saw corpses on the side of the road"
Iritimbi, who is Christian, fled from him home in the Km-5 neighbourhood on Thursday afternoon.
“I managed to slip out of the neighborhood after learning that Christians had been killed in revenge attacks nearby. I first got my wife and kids out. We had to leave by foot because the roads are blocked. On my way, I saw corpses on the side of the road. This morning, I heard that the situation was getting really bad in Km-5. Christians there are terrified; they’re all leaving the neighborhood.”
“In this neighbourhood, nobody obeys any higher authority”
Hervé Cyriaque Serifio is an independent journalist. On Wednesday, he visited Km-5, where he saw armed civilians.
Everyone I saw in the streets was armed [with machetes and knives]. Some already had these at home; others had just procured them. I did not see anyone distributing weapons.
The people I photographed in Km-5 are Muslims that are banding together in militias to attack Christians. Among them, there are civilians who are trying to defend themselves from the Christian militias, but there are also former rebels. It’s very hard to know who is who. Everyone is confused. And when people talk about Seleka rebels, or ex-Seleka rebels, it doesn’t really mean anything anymore. In this neighbourhood, nobody obeys to any higher authority.
An ex-Seleka truck in the streets of Km-5.
Sporadic firing was heard this morning in Bangui. There is no death toll as yet for Friday.
Michel Djotodia, who proclaimed himself president in March 2012, has ordered a curfew from 6 pm to 6 am. Meanwhile, French troops have been deployed on several of the capital’s main thoroughfares. France’s mission in the Central African Republic, as defined by the security council’s resolution 2127, is to take “all measures necessary to assist MISCA [the African Union’s peacekeeping force].”