‘The grenade flew on to the stage’

Emmanuel Ngallos and his band sing for peace in CAR

Emmanuel Ngallos and his band sing for peace in CAR

Emmanuel Ngallos and his band sing for peace in the Central African Republic (CAR) because they came under attack at a concert last year, writes Brenna Daldorph.

“I’m the only survivor who actually saw the grenade,” says Ngallos, who was on keyboards at the time looking out at the excited crowd packed into the small bar to see his band, Nouvelles Écritures.

It came flying through the air towards him, hit the speakers and bounced.

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

That was November 11, 2017 – a perfect Saturday night for a party in the capital, Bangui – which unlike the rest of the country had not witnessed serious violence for more than a year.

The air had been thick with anticipation.

Band leader Ozaguin, one of the country’s most popular musicians, was making a rare appearance in the volatile PK5 neighbourhood, notorious for numerous outbreaks of inter-religious violence between militia groups

Muslims and Christians from different neighbourhoods had been dancing together in the bar, a rare sight.

Ngallos was lucky to survive the explosion, which killed four people and injured more than 20 others.

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.

Ngallos, meanwhile, lay in his hospital bed consumed with horror by the unfolding events.

“I had expected a party and a good time, but it turned into the opposite,” he said at the time.

“That’s how terrorists work – they replace joy with sadness.”

As chaos raged in the capital, Ngallos had a series of important visitors including the interior minister, the European Union ambassador plus a senior official from the UN’s peacekeeping force in CAR, MINUSCA.

But these visits just made him angry. Like many Central Africans, Ngallos blames the authorities for letting the conflict drag on.

“The government just comes to give their condolences,” he says now, looking back. “Condolences don’t bring people back to life.”

Shrapnel wounds in his chest, stomach and back as well as the lacerations on his legs confined him to hospital for days on end. -BBC

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