Thousands flee militia violence in Central African Republic

A man looks on as smoke rises from an attack on a village in Central African Republic (CAR) in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 08 February 2018
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Thousands flee militia violence in Central African Republic

BANGUI: About 7,400 people have been forced to flee their homes as fighting raged between rival militias in northwest Central African Republic, the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday.
The internally displaced people in the area of Markounda since late December have faced living conditions that “are extremely difficult,,” according to the ICRC, which is working alongside the Central African Red Cross and the NGO Doctors Without Borders.
“Families are confined to makeshift huts. The only health center in Markounda has been looted since the outbreak of hostilities, there are not enough showers and latrines,” said Jean-Francois Sangsue, head of the ICRC delegation in Bangui.
For more than a month two rival armed groups, the National Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (MNLC) and Revolution and Justice (RJ), have been battling for control of the area.
Up until the end of last year, they divided territory and checkpoints — a crucial source of income where businessmen, travelers and farmers are charged a fee to pass through.
But the murder of an RJ leader in November set off a chain reaction of killing and counter-killing.
More than 65,000 people have already fled fighting in the area to take refuge in Paoua, a town whose normal population is 40,000, according to the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
An operation by a United Nations peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) has been under way since mid-January to neutralize the armed groups.
The Central African Republic — one of the poorest countries in the world — has been mired in a deadly conflict since 2013.
The state has control over only a small part of the territory, while armed groups battle in the provinces for control of diamonds, gold and silver


Singapore celebrates Ramadan with bazaars and biryani

Updated 23 May 2019
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Singapore celebrates Ramadan with bazaars and biryani

  • The vibrant Kampong Glam neighborhood comes alive during the holy month
  • Sultan Mosque was designated a national monument in 1975

KUALA LUMPUR: Singapore’s Sultan Mosque is a focal point for Muslims in the cosmopolitan city-state and the vibrant Kampong Glam neighborhood comes alive during the holy month of Ramadan when people from all walks of life flock to its bustling bazaars.

Kampong Glam is Singapore’s “Muslim Quarter” with a mix of Malay, South Asian and Middle Eastern elements. Around 14 percent of Singapore’s 5.6 million population is Muslim, according to the latest official data.

Arab Street — an area that includes Bussorah Street, Haji and Bali Lanes and Muscat Street — is a hub for hipsters, vivid murals, Persian rug stores, shisha bars, perfumeries and textile shops, as well as being home to the distinctive golden domes of the Sultan Mosque. There is even an ornate archway welcoming people to explore the neighborhood and its distinctive shophouses, buildings that were used for working and living in. 

“We are more like brothers and sisters, rather than businesses. I know most of the customers and they know me too,” a 36-year-old biryani hawker who gave his name as Nareza told Arab News as he served a line of hungry clients.

Nareza said his stall’s signature dish was mutton biryani, made from a family recipe handed down through generations from his late grandmother. 

FASTFACT

Around 14 percent of Singapore’s 5.6 million population is Muslim

“Dum biryani is a process of mixing meat and rice together in one pot, so the rice has a bit of the masala taste while the meat has a bit of the basmati rice fragrance,” he said, adding that he sold more than 300 portions of biryani a day. “I learned to make biryani from my father, who used to do charity work in the mosque. We make our own spices, we do not buy them from outside vendors. That is why the taste is different.”

The bazaar is packed with places selling food, drinks, decorations and homeware. The fare reflects Singapore’s international status, with eateries and stores selling kebabs, sushi and local Malay goodies.

But Singapore has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in the world and having a fast-paced lifestyle, leading some to focus on preserving culture and heritage for future generations.

“We want to create awareness about the significance of Sultan Mosque to the Muslim community,” juice stall owner Riduan told Arab News, saying all sale proceeds were donated to the Sultan Mosque. “Arab Street is unique because you see a lot of different races coming here and it is also a tourist attraction. This is where we demonstrate we are Singapore society. Singapore is not just limited to skyscrapers such as Marina Bay Sands.”