Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fatimatu Yamsa knew she was going to die

The text below this photo by Reuters Sigfrid Modola is straightforward and clear in its simple brutality: (...)  "A mother holds her child while attempting to take cover as repeated gun shots are heard close to Miskine district during continuing sectarian violence in the capital Bangui today January 28, 2014. At least 13 people were killed in Central African Republic on Monday as the top U.N. human rights official warned of escalating reprisals against Muslims and urged foreign governments to do more to stop the country being torn apart". (...)  Unfortunately, the international media attention is looking in another direction, bringing you news about music awards, drunk pop stars and the latest about fashion. This was pointed out in a very eloquent way by ambassador Power, who in this tweet makes her point in a very poignant way:

But there are good reporters out there, telling the story, such as Sigfrid Modola from Reuters, or Thomas Fessy from BBC, or Marcus Bleasdale. They are taking risks and doing their job, to show the rest of us how war is changing the human landscape of Central African Republic.  Why we don't see more journalists on the ground, it's difficult to say. Perhaps of fear. Perhaps of lack of funding or support from their bosses. And I also understand journalists who are not traveling there. I do find it difficult stop looking at those eyes, that fear of mother and child: One cannot go back to write about banalities after witnessing images like the photo above.

Another kew witness to what has happened in Central African Republic is Peter Bouckart, from Human Rights Watch. In his dispatch "We will take our revenge" I found a story that I found extremely important, not only because of its sadness, but because some people are still doing the right thing, even though hate and revenge is drowning the hopes for peace.

Fatimatu Yamsa was a young Muslim woman. She wanted to leave the city of Boyali,  escaping from the violence which has changed everything in a matter of days in Central African Republic. With her was her 7 month old baby.
Knowing that she was going to die, desperate to save her baby, Fatimatu asked the Christian woman sitting next to her in the truck, to take the baby and pretend it was hers. Fatimatu wanted her baby to live.  Fatimatu and two other Muslim women and their four children were taken out of the truck. One child managed to escape, but the others were taken into the local Mosque by the Christian militias. These three women and three children were hacked to death with men - and children - all blinded by hate.

Often when tragedies like this happen, we are paralyzed by its terror and maybe we may feel somehow content that it's far away, it's not close enough, we don't care, we may even don't know where that country is. It's difficult to stop these crimes to happen. It's then difficult to see how the social fabric, that intricate bond between groups of people can mended, when violence is changing everything around us. If we don't have enough observers, those who can find the stories of cohesion, then there will be one single narrative, and that is a dangerous thing, because it can leave violence alone, to continue its devastating force. We know from the story told by Peter Bouckart, with the tragic example of Fatimatu Yamsa, that there are people in times of war who are not murderers. There are people who have saved people from the other side. There are people who have done their best to work for peace, but their voice is too lonely, too weak, too seldom. We have to find them, and we have to give them a powerful microphone, and to amplify the message of compassion, solidarity, love for life. It should not be that difficult. And we need both more journalists on the ground, and we need agencies who are willing and able to support the reconstruction as soon as possible of the social fabric in Central African Republic.

And yes, Fatimatu's baby was saved. The Christian woman did the right thing, and reunited the baby with Fatimatu's family.