An attack on Christians by local Muslims, supported by Islamist fighters, in the Central African Republic (CAR), has led to further carnage.
As the Islamist Seleka militants continue to wreak havoc across the stricken country, Christians in the city of Bangassou organised a protest against them on 8 October. But armed Muslims stopped them by force, and ten people were killed in the ensuing violence.
Further attacks on 12 October left four more Christians dead. A local church leader said, “We’re overwhelmed, inundated by thousands of men, women and children seeking refuge from the fighting.”
These are just the latest in a grim series of attacks on Christians that have followed a coup by the Seleka rebels in March. Rape, murder and machete attacks have become common, and whole villages have been abandoned or destroyed.
Human Rights Watch has confirmed that over 1,000 homes were destroyed between March and June, and that more than 400,000 people have now been displaced. The UN declared that the country has descended into a “state of anarchy and total disregard for international law”.
The Islamist government installed by the Seleka has failed to curb its brutal excesses. The president, Michel Djotodia, announced on 13 September that the 25,000-strong militia had been dissolved, but many of the fighters have simply been absorbed into the country’s army. There are now fears that CAR could become a failed state.
The severe danger faced by the country’s Christian majority has been heightened still further by an influx of other militant Islamists from neighbouring countries. Sudan is believed to have encouraged the coup, and its Janjaweed militia have reportedly crossed the border already. Other terrorist groups from Mali, Libya and Nigeria may also be active on the ground.
If the Islamist violence is not brought under control, there is a real danger that CAR may become a haven and breeding ground for extremists and terrorists. They would have ready access to the resources of the region, which is rich in oil, diamonds and uranium.
An EU commissioner has warned that the country could turn into “another Somalia”.