Local folklore has it that the soil of Africa is red because so much blood has been spilled on it since the beginning of times. So it has been once again, for the at least 6,000 Muslim men, women and children who fell in front of the guns and machetes of the anti Balaka movement in the Central African Republic last year.
In a matter of days, whole neighbourhoods were uprooted, men, women and children killed by Christian mobs calling for revenge and lusting for blood. People saw their dreams and happiness being shattered in moments as their families were annihilated mercilessly. Their homeland was not theirs anymore. Unlike ours, this is not a country familiar with sectarian terror.
The scale of the communal violence can be gauged by a simple fact. A year before the brutality which the UN now says is ethnic cleansing, the Muslim population at Bangui, the country’s capital stood at around 145,000. After the slaughter started, it was down to 900, the rest fleeing to neighbouring countries anyway they can. Some fell from the overcrowded trucks that were carrying them. Their limbs were ripped apart from their bodies.
As the dead bodies of Muslim men, women and children were left in the empty villages to decompose, the world media focused on more important activities of the day, except the sensational cases where a victim is eaten. Victims of ethnic cleansing will however say that the general murderous acts of conflict are in equally gruesome though they do not sound so sensationalist in print.
Small wonder that Africans think the international community ignores them. An African Muslim, or a Muslim from any part of the world has more reason to suppose so. In all fairness, Muslims have been ignoring the sufferings of Muslims in their backyard for a long time, so why should the international community care? When Christians are slaughtered, the Christian world takes swift action, as they did in this very country a few months back. A Muslim militia Seleka murdered innocent Christians the year before leading to French led intervention.
No right minded people think that the entire community should have been targeted for annihilation. In the end the brutality of the Christian militia eclipsed any other competition. Some Christians did their best to shelter their fellow human beings, in a gallant act of defiance against the militias the international forces found difficult to neutralise.
Few Muslims stayed back. The murderers were everywhere. If you did not run, you died. Sounds familiar? The soil of Burma is not red. Yet if the soil could speak, it would tell you the same story as the Central African Republic.