Central African Republic: ‘Why a grenade couldn’t stop our music’

Photo : bbc.com


From his position on stage, keyboardist Emmanuel looks out at the excited crowd who have packed out the small bar to see his band, Nouvelles Écritures, perform.

The air is thick with anticipation. Band leader Ozaguin, one of the country’s most popular musicians, is making a rare appearance in Bangui’s volatile PK5 neighbourhood, notorious for numerous outbreaks of inter-religious violence between militia groups.

But the crowd feels hopeful because, unlike the rest of the country, the capital city has not witnessed serious violence for over a year.

In the bar, Muslims and Christians from different neighbourhoods dance together, a rare sight that makes Emmanuel think peace is possible.

A moment later, he sees something flying through the air towards him. It hits the speakers, bounces and rolls off the stage.

Emmanuel was lucky to survive.

“I’m the only survivor who actually saw the grenade,” he says.

“When it rolled off the stage, it fell into a little hole. That’s what saved me. I was hurt, but alive.”

Four people died that day and more than 20 others were injured.

It is still not clear who was behind the grenade attack but rumours spread like wildfire, triggering reprisal attacks.

Several Muslim people were killed in retaliation, including a teenager who was dragged off his motorcycle by an angry mob. The Interior Minister later said the attackers had probably wanted to whip up tensions between communities.

Emmanuel, meanwhile, lay in his hospital bed consumed with horror by the events that were unfolding.

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