BANGUI, Central African Republic– The political violence that has been plaguing the Central African Republic (CAR) over the last few years is finally forcing the Muslims in the predominantly Christian country to seek refuge.
According the Human Rights Watch (HRW), Christian militias have unleashed “waves of targeted violence” against the minority Muslims communities. The anti-Balaka militant group considers the targeting of Muslims in the CAR an act of revenge due to the “widespread atrocities committed over the past 10 months by the mostly Muslim Seleka rebel group.”
“Throughout January 2014 and the first week of Februrary, thousands of Muslim families from towns with sizable Muslim populations – Bossangoa, Bozoum, Bouca, Yaloke, Mbaiki, Bossembele, and others in the northwest and southwest – fled horrific anti-balaka attacks,” reported HRW.
Moreover, Amnesty International believes the international community has failed to prevent the ethnic cleansing of innocent Muslim individuals in the western end of the CAR.
“International peacekeeping troops have failed to stop the violence,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senor Crisis Response Adviser. “They have acquiesced to violence in some cases by allowing abusive anti-balaka militias to fill the power vacuum created by the Seleka’s departure.”
In December 2013, the United Nations Security Council authorized the deployment of 7,100 African Union and French troops within Bangui and other towns to restore order. Amnesty International claims that the current violence stems from the human rights abuses by the Seleka group that began a year earlier in late 2012.
“In power for nearly 10 months, the Seleka were responsible for massacres, extrajudicial executions, rape, torture, and looting, as well as massive burning and destruction of Christian villages,” said Amnesty International.
Although the context has changed ever since Seleka ceased its grip in many villages, the bloodshed continues today in which the minority Muslim individuals are now the victims. The ironic part about all of this is that the Christian and Muslim populations within the CAR have peacefully co-existed in the past.
Today, the politics in the CAR have spiraled out of control and now a new question emerges: how can peace be restored?
According to Alyssa Rickard, Africa Programs Intern at Freedom House, the presence of the peacekeeping troops and the disarmament of the rebel forces is simply not enough. Moreover, she said, “Christian and Muslim leaders are taking the lead on reconciliation, but they lack resources and secure venues where dialogues can take place.” As a result, Freedom House believes that the international peacekeeping forces need to support these dialogues until the establishment of a democratic political process becomes possible.
The international forces are also responsible to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches people within the country. Living within one of the poorest nations in the world, the people in the CAR are now struggling to receive humanitarian aid due to the ongoing conflict. Unless the international community can successfully help resolve these issues, the future of the CAR will continue to look bleak.
– Juan Campos
Sources: Amnesty International, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch
Photo: UNHCR Photo Unit