A group of Central African Republic refugees is using music to call on the world to save their country from misery and stop the conflict so they can return home. On the streets of Cameroon’s northern town of Garoua, they also asked their host country Cameroon to push for peace.
These are the voices of five refugees from the Central African Republic singing in Garoua, northern Cameroon, for peace to return to their troubled country.
They sing every weekend along the streets and in front of churches and mosques, urging people in conflict to talk and not fall into the same situation as their country.
Twenty-seven-year old Puchi Urbain is the group leader. He says they fled from their city, Alindao, when armed groups attacked, killing several people, and looting cattle, farm produce and cash.
He says they ended up in Cameroon at a United Nations-run refugee camp in the village of Mbaimbum. After sharing their stories, they thought more people should know about their experience. So, they created a singing group called Peace Crusaders.
Urbain says they decided to sing in French as well as the Sango, Fulfude and Lingala languages spoken in several parts of Africa so that all people should know that peace is priceless. He says they sing for children who have lost their parents in wars around the African continent.
The Central African Republic has been in conflict since 2013, when the Seleka, a coalition of rebels from a predominately Muslim region, forced President Francois Bozize from office. Violence between armed Christians and Muslim groups has forced more than a million people from their homes.
Urbain says he had experience singing in a Catholic church choir group.Their church was destroyed before he fled to Cameroon.
In a song titled “We Want Peace,” the group questions why weapons are used as solutions to crises when history teaches the world that after every conflict, people still sit at the negotiating table to sort out their differences.
Twenty-seven-year old Dende Claudette is the lead singer and joined the group two years ago. She lost her grandmother in the war and is still hoping that one day she will see her three sisters who were lost in the conflict.
She says her heart bleeds because she has seen many people being killed and stray bullets taking the lives of those fleeing the carnage. She says parents watched helplessly as their children were slaughtered in front of them and armed men stole their money. Some mothers were not able to bury their children because they had to flee for their lives.
The refugee singers have opened a clothing repair shop in Garoua to earn a living and receive donations from well wishers. They say they will keep singing until there is peace in the C.A.R.