Uncovering a massacre in CAR

The story of how and why armed men decided to shoot into a hut on October 26 is murky, but a mass killing did occur.

Story-telling is what I do.

Sometimes, as a reporter, one follows stories that are already in the press. At other times, the events are already unfolding right in front of you.

We film the pictures and let the images speak for themselves.

It is rare these days that a journalist can uncover an event that no one has heard of.

Our starting point was the main hospital in Bouar, in Western region of Central African Republic, this is where most of the dead as well as the survivors of the shooting were taken to on October 27.

The hospital documented the names and ages of those killed. On the list, we counted 18 dead and 13 people injured.

We then spoke to some of the survivors of the shooting, including Clarisse Demokombona, who lost two of her children.

I interviewed many mothers who have lost their children before.

Clarisse was still in the initial state of shock, unaccepting of what happened that terrible night.

Her three children who survived were trying their best to get her attention, clinging to their mother, but she was unable to even look at them, let alone give them any reassurance, or love.

Whisper through translator

After the interview I bent down next to Clarisse and whispered to her through a translator: “Your children need you now more than ever.”

She replied: “I know, but I don’t have the strength inside me to take care of them. Perhaps God will give me that strength.”

On the morning of October 26, a group of armed vigilantes known as Anti-Balaka [which means “anti-machete” in the local language] attacked the Seleka in Bouar.

There was a long gun-battle, and Clarisse’s family along with three or four other families decided to hide in a little hut in the bush until they felt safe enough to come out.

It was also raining heavily that day, and the little hut was the only shelter for kilometres.

The story of how and why armed men decided to shoot into this hut is extremely murky.

Witnesses say the son of the owner of the shack had stolen a mattress earlier that day, and had been taken to a Seleka base.

Possibly, as a way of getting out of crime, he had told them that Anti-Balaka fighters were hiding there.

His name, along with his father and mother, are on the list of the dead at the hospital.

Clarisse and other witnesses says it was dark, although the men did have a torch, and they only stopped shooting after she shouted out, and the surviving children started to cry.

The men then left the dead and the injured.

It was only the next day that the survivors relatives helped get them to the hospital.