He was a Christian walking in a Muslim enclave, carrying wood to sell. In these tense days, that is enough reason to die in the Central African Republic. A Muslim mob confronted Pumandele, 23, on a side street and pushed him around. Then, they threw him into a ditch. At least one man stabbed him before his throat was slit.
As the slaughter unfolded, some of his killers ordered a Washington Post journalist witnessing the attack Sunday to leave. “Allez, allez — go, go, ” one yelled, wagging his arms menacingly.
Stationed nearby was a group of Burundian peacekeepers, ordered by the United Nations to protect civilians. But they didn’t know about the killing until some men — perhaps his killers — brought Pumandele’s mutilated body past them in a wheelbarrow. They dumped his body outside the Red Cross office across from the Burundian base. And just as swiftly, Pumandele was taken to the morgue, adding to the rolls of the dead in Africa’s latest war.
At least nine other people were killed Sunday in and around the area where Pumandele died, according to human rights activists and aid agencies. Christians killed Muslims. Muslims killed Christians. Shops were burned down. Houses were looted. Bodies were burned in streets, in front of African peacekeepers. Some tried to stop the looters; others looked the other way. In all, Sunday’s events were the latest sign of the mayhem in this besieged capital, reeling from one of the worst episodes of sectarian violence on the continent in recent memory.
Pumandele was a victim of circumstance. Half an hour before he was killed, heavy gunfire erupted near the Grand Mosque, near the Red Cross office, in PK 5, one of the last remaining Muslim enclaves in the capital. Muslims accused three Christians — Pumandele and two friends — of carrying grenades and seeking to hurl them into the mosque. The Burundian soldiers took into custody two of the men, but Pumandele ran in the other direction. There were no grenades, the Burundians later said. All the youths had was fear. Pumandele simply ran the wrong way.
Within minutes, the mob had caught up with him.