Today is the one year anniversary of the day the Anti-Balaka marched into Bangui. They chased out the armed Seleka rebels, who, wanting only material gain and not to really control a state, mostly left without putting up a fight. Then the Anti-Balaka, a homegrown militia of people whose main suffering under the Seleka was watching family burned alive in their homes, went on a revenge- and trauma-fueled slaughtering rampage and lynched hundreds of Muslim people in Bangui, in Bossangoa, and across the Central African Republic. They chased people into their houses, knocked them down (the rubble is still all that stands in the Muslim quartiers of these cities), killed them with machetes, cut them to pieces and displayed their bodies. Over the next few months they continued to target all Muslim people until they had killed or chased out almost the entire community from the Western half of the country.
This is part of the story. The other part, the silent part, are people across all ethnic groups and religions who protected people from attackers. Who volunteered to run and organize camps of displaced people. Of whole villages who banded together to hide a single Muslim person from marauding killers. Who continue to work in the relief. Who set up their own NGOs so they could receive donations from the UN to bring food to hungry people whose crops were destroyed. Who teach tolerance to children or on the radio even though it makes them targets. Who paste signs on their squatted-building restaurants welcoming people of all faiths. Who went out day after day after day, 6 or 7 days a week, to do the heavy labor of seed delivery because the seeds arrived late but they all knew it was their labor that would make possible a harvest and avert a famine. They did avert a famine in CAR: reason to celebrate.
The CAR response– aid and peacekeepers to protect civilians– is one of the most underfunded responses now. In Syria, the World Food Program is halting or reducing it’s food aid to refugees, so I do not write this lightly– there are incredible needs across the world. But as we reflect on the extremes of racism in the US that allows police to kill Black people with impunity, remember too the colonial and neocolonial white supremacy that resulted in rich lands like Central Africa watching their riches extracted and their people enslaved and killed, resulting in horrific fucked up situations like this one where trauma and need create cycles of inhumane greed and cruelty. Black lives matter. To my white friends in the US, don’t be myopic about which Black lives matter– white supremacy is a global phenomenon.