Security has returned and life is resuming in Boyo, located 120 km from Bambari in the Ouaka Prefecture, in the center of the Central African Republic. This locality was shaken in December 2021 by an attack launched by an armed group that caused numerous losses of human lives, significant material damage and displacement of populations. In the aftermath, the deployment of Nepalese peacekeepers from Minusca on the spot, made the attackers flee. The presence of the MINUSCA base reassures; peacekeepers organize patrols to secure the communes, thus allowing the resumption of activities and the return of the displaced.
Attacks and atrocities committed in 2021
Boyo is made up of 24 villages and almost 4,500 inhabitants who lived peacefully until the fateful date of December 6, 2021. That night, anti-balaka, coming from Tagbara stormed the locality and committed atrocities mainly against the Muslim community, with a death toll summarized as follows by the President of the special delegation of the municipality, Abdala Younous: "13 people lost their lives in Boyo-center and 51 people around. 547 houses were destroyed, and hundreds of people fled to Bambari, Bria and even Bangui".
Dozens of people, men, women, and children were also sequestered in the mosque for a week by the attackers. They owed their salvation only to the arrival of Nepalese Peacekeepers on the scene on December 13, 2022; a presence that makes the attackers flee.
Traces of this violence can still be seen today in Boyo: there are dozens of houses burned down or destroyed along the main road that crosses the commune
Lieutenant-Colonel Said, commander of the Nepalese battalion, based in Bambari explains the difficult conditions in which these Peacekeepers left to help the civilian population and set up a temporary emergency base in Boyo: "The heavily degraded road and a damaged bridge meant that our elements took three days to arrive on site. This is the first time Minusca Forces have arrived in Boyo. They came and drove out the anti-balaka on December 13, 2022".
But Boyo's ordeal was far from over, since after that, members of another armed group, the UPC, came on December 23 to encircle the commune. Those, too, were driven out by the Peacekeepers "with the help of the inhabitants, and the reinforcement transported by helicopter," says the lieutenant colonel.
The population welcomes MINUSCA's action for having pacified and secured the locality
The people of Boyo recognize that thanks to the intervention of the Peacekeepers, they are living again in peace and security. The observation made in situ is that they are returning to their activities in peace and in inter-community cohesion. Even if the strengthening of ties between communities is still to be perfected to achieve the solidarity and harmony prevailing before the violence. This population welcomes the action of MINUSCA to pacify and secure their locality, like Mayor Abdala Younous: "We thank MINUSCA for what it is doing in Boyo, and we ask it not to get tired. There is a real change after the arrival of MINUSCA in Boyo: we have resumed living together and we hope that this will continue and we will keep thanking MINUSCA," says the latter. He also adds: "They [the peacekeepers] ensure our security and there are no more clashes. Christians and Muslims are together again, and we thank MINUSCA for that".
In addition, those who fled the violence are beginning to return, as the first citizen of the locality still says: "Since there is peace, those who fled are beginning to return and they are beginning to rebuild their homes and resume their activities".
Among those returning home is Nadia Solange Obrou, about thirty, a farmer and widow. She fled with her three children to Bria and returned a month later. She sells cassava at one of the two markets, very close to the town hall. "I came back because I had a lot of difficulties there to feed my children. Everything is expensive. Here I feel more comfortable and then security came back," she says.
Tahir Mahamat, a forty-year-old trader has also returned from Bambari. Met at the Abba 1 district, he says "There have been sensitizations for displaced people to return and many have returned".
A presence that reassures but concerns remain
Halfway between the two markets, several women of various ages sitting in the shade of mango trees chatter aloud, with laughter from time to time: some braiding the younger ones, others selling milk in calabashes. To the following question:what are you doing there? one of them, obviously the oldest, answers: we braid the children for the Eid al Fitr festival". Her name is Zara, in her sixties, and she does not hide from expressing her feelings of newfound tranquility after the installation of the MINUSCA base. "Their presence here reassures us. We sleep peacefully at night until the morning without fear in our stomachs and during the day we quietly go about our activities," she assures.
But if security is achieved in Boyo-center, this is not yet the case in the periphery, subject to the incursions of armed men
Testimony of Alphonse Donvoro, palm wine seller, also met at the market: "Currently we have security here because of the base but when we take the road to Bambari, we worry because of the robberies. Before you get to the villages of Tabgara or Zig-zig, you risk being robbed, even before Ngalogo 30 kilometers from here, you can be robbed. Almost three weeks ago, people were robbed there".
Yaouba Salet is of the same opinion: "Since the arrival of the Nepalese we have no problem except that the anti-balaka disturb the herders in the bush; they seize their cattle".
Gilbert Pakilibou, a farmer in his late sixties, wants the Peacekeepers to stay in Boyo because, according to him: "if they leave, we will fall back into the same situation; the armed groups will return. They must stay here".
The Peacekeepers, on the other hand, are aware of the situation and are already expanding their patrols on the outskirts as Lieutenant-Colonel Said pointed out: "Efforts are directed towards the surrounding villages: Komaya, Kolego, and Tango Bakari".