On my first walk on the hill overlooking Bangui

On my first walk on the hill overlooking Bangui, I spotted the house: a crumbling, oddly ornate fortress with sign announcing it was “à louer” (“for rent”).

A few days later, I was sitting with two Bangui-based journalists at a bar by the Oubangui River. The night was warm and mosquito-filled. Below us, on the sandy banks, fisherman’s pirogues lay docked for the night: slumbering.

I was regretting my choiceof white wine, which turned out to be sweet and lukewarm. The conversation lulled.

“Look,” I said, getting out my phone. “One of you should rent this place. I would.”

One of my fellow drinkers– a local journalist– shuddered and looked away from my glowing screen.

“No way,” he said.

“But it’s on the hill,” I insisted– I loved the hill– a green respite from Bangui’s madness.

“I can’t go up there anymore,” he said. “I saw too many awful things there.”

Staring towards the river, he continued.

“There was a man who worked at the hotel I was staying in. When I came down in the morning, I’d say hello. Give him a cigarette or something. One day, he wasn’t there anymore. I got word a few days later that they had found a mass grave on the hill. I went. I went and I saw the man’s head.  I…. I saw his head.”

He stopped speaking, but rocked back and forth, looking out at the languid water.

I slipped my phone back into my pocket.

In the CAR, sometimes it feels as if horror is hiding everywhere.

– Brenna Daldorph