BANGUI, Central African Republic — The situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) has traveled fast from bad to worse. The last few years have been a vicious cycle of fighting between Muslim and Christian fighters. Since the beginning of violence about a year ago, Christian militant groups termed “anti-Balaka” (which roughly translates to mean “anti-sword”) were formed in response to Muslim rebel coalitions, which overthrew the government of the CAR on March 24, 2013.
The Muslim coalition then began systematically targeting local civilians, mainly Christians, which in turn caused local Christians to form the anti-Balaka groups as a form of self-defense.
However, the Christian militia groups have gained the advantage in recent months. The attacks against Muslims from the Central African Republic have reached the point where in Bangui, the CAR’s capital city, the estimated number of Muslims, which used to number in the hundreds of thousands, has now been reduced to about 900 according to the United Nations.
Out of the 4.6 million inhabitants of Central African Republic, only about 15% identify as Muslim, which is about 700,000 people.
There have been an outpouring of cries that the current number of foreign troops in the Central African Republic are not doing enough to curb the violence occurring against the Muslim minority that is trying desperately to flee the country. The Central African Republic is a former colony of France. The French have sent 1,600 soldiers to the country, the African Union has over 5,000 soldiers there and the European Union has agreed to send over 500 troops to the area as well.
However, even with over 7,000 foreign troops in the country, the attacks and persecution of the Muslim population has continued to occur, and there have been attacks and reports of killings of Muslims trying to leave the country. Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Advisor Donatella Rover travelled to the Central African Republic to assess the situation. “We saw bodies littering the street. One was the body of a little baby who could have not been more than seven or eight months old.”
The situation for Muslims being persecuted in the Central African Republic is approaching ethno-religious genocide, the Christian anti-Balaka groups are targeting Muslim citizens in their best attempts to remove the entire Muslim minority from the Central African Republic entirely, according to a variety of sources. Doctors Without Borders, who operates in the area, recently revealed that the town of Carnot in the south-west area of the Central African Republic is at risk from attacks by the anti-Balaka, who declared that they intended to hunt down and kill all of the city’s Muslim population.
The situation in the Central Africa Republic is growing in intensity and needs to be fully addressed by the international community. There are more troops being sent to the region, however there needs to be a much larger accounting of all the atrocities that have occurred, whether perpetrated by Muslim or Christian groups. The international community also needs to address the flight of refugees from the country as the sheer amount of people fleeing risks sending the country into economic turmoil.
– Arthur Fuller
Sources: The Guardian (1), The Guardian (2), All Africa (1), All Africa (2), Washington Post, Fars News Agency, IRIN News, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reuters, CBC News
Photo: The Epoch Times