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CAR: Muslim population in danger of being wiped out


Sakeena Suliman – Cii News | 31 January 2014/29 Rabi ul Awwal 1435


While their Southern African neighbours remain oblivious to their suffering, roughly 700 000 of the Central African Republic’s (CAR) population is in danger of being hacked to death because they’re Muslim.

“If the international community doesn’t get more robustly involved we’re looking at a situation where there might not be any Muslims left in the CAR. It’s gotten to those dire types of terms,” said Lewis Mudge on Cii Radio.

A researcher in the Africa division at the Human Rights Watch organisation, Mudge said they were concerned with the “ongoing targeting of Muslim civilians” since early December 2013.

What began as a rebellion by mostly-Muslim Seleka rebels to drive out then president Francois Bozize in March turned into a bloodbath between Christians and Muslims. It is important to note that Seleka is a coalition of rebel groups supported by Chadian soldiers and the Sudanese.

“They’re a complicated group made up of different soldiers from different countries. Different generals from different countries, generals that controlled large swaths of the territories in the CAR who didn’t speak, French, the administrative language, or Sangho the local one and this made it very difficult for them to rule. And so the Seleka really were a group that had an agreement which was to take over Bangui.”

Since the coup an effective government has seized to exist with Muslim forces attacking Christian villages and vice versa. But ever since the disbanding of Seleka by Michel Djotodia – CAR’s first Muslim president, who subsequently stepped down in early January, Muslims have been the target of the Christian Anti-Balaka.

“Many of these people [Anti-Balaka] equate all Muslims with the Seleka who have ruled the CAR since March 2013 with an iron fist. However what they are doing is not just targeting Seleka but they are seriously killing civilians. We had, one of our researchers on the ground yesterday [Wednesday January 29] who witnessed four Muslim civilians hacked to death in front of French peace keepers. The situation outside of Bangui by all accounts is worse.”

Meanwhile, 1600 French soldiers were deployed in the country late last year to support and augment the African peace keeping mission, MISCA that’s already on the ground. But their presence has hardly been effective said Mudge.

“I’m not trying to criticise the French too much, I mean they have 1600 troops in a country the size of France so they’re in a very difficult position. What they’ve focused on is holding the airport and what they’ve focused on is trying to show force in Bangui, the problem is, that they’re not engaging these anti-Balaka militias when they are killing civilians as we saw yesterday. So we’re very concerned that the anti-Balaka feel and perceive the French citizens as simply opening the doors for them to carry out abuses.”

Since the CAR’s independence Muslims and Christians managed to live peacefully. Despite tensions local mediation resolutions were in place to keep the peace. The entire local system had been completely upended with the Seleka takeover. The “foreign” rebel group was also responsible for causing serious grievances amongst the Christian population.

“And what we’re seeing now is a completely violent and arbitrary blowback against all Muslims after the Seleka rule.”

Despite President Catherine Samba-Panza taking oath last week to regain stability in the country, whole villages continue to be put down. The smell of burnt flesh still wafts through the air. Civilians continue to be hacked while armed soldiers stand watching. Women continue to be raped and killed. And children, the lifeline of future generations continue to be erased.

At least 5% of the population has already fled the country, though the Human Rights Watch expects that number to be much higher. Muslims that are living in the capital of Bangui and in the major areas around are packing up all their belongings and moving north to Chad.

“It is an incredibly morbid situation. These are Central Africans, these are people with passports in the country, multiple generations in the country, they’re citizens of the country, they have a positive effect on the country, they help the country develop so they certainly need to stay and the fact that the anti-Balaka militias are just arbitrarily killing the women and children, are forcing them to leave. It’s a completely worrying situation.”

Almost 70% of the country’s refugees have crossed the Bangui River to the northern Democratic Republic of Congo and the Equatorial province. There are people fleeing to Cameroon but there are no established camps there. The largest camp internally is set up at the airport where there are over 100 000 people. There’s tens of thousands of people scattered in other camps. The capital Bangui has a general population of a million people and over 500 000 people are displaced, “so you’re looking at a situation in which half the capital is displaced”.


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