Originally published in World Watch Monitor
After a period of relative calm, violence has returned to the Central African Republic (CAR), which was wracked by near-civil war and inter-religious violence between 2012 and 2014.
Fighters from Central African Republic’s largely Muslim Seleka militia attacked refugees in Kaga Bandoro, in the country’s remote north on Wednesday, October 12, reports Reuters.
Thirteen people were stabbed or hacked to death, before UN peacekeepers repelled the attackers, killing at least 10 of them, officials said. Several locals were wounded.
Death toll likely to rise
But a local MP, contacted by WWM, said the toll is likely to rise as more bodies are recovered. A doctor and a nurse working for NGOs were among the victims, he said.
He said the Catholic Church compound was ransacked, along with a camp which hosts some 5 000 refugees.
“We were in the house when suddenly the Seleka arrived and set it on fire,” Marcelline Kanga, 40, told Reuters. “They killed my uncle and stabbed my brother to death right there.”
Yongon Samson, 48, described seeing a headless body as he ran for cover.
Thousands displaced from the most recent flare up of violence had gathered around the UN peacekeeping base. A Catholic priest took refuge inside.
Pope Francis visited the capital at the end of last year to implore Christians and Muslims to end a spiral of hate.
Seleka coalition and the anti-Balaka
Even though the Seleka coalition was officially disbanded three years ago, CAR’s two prevalent dominant militia groupings are still linked to either the Seleka or to self-defence forces which arose against them, the “anti-Balaka” (anti-machete), often animist or nominally ‘Christian’.
“The old demons of reprisal attacks appear to be getting the upper hand again,” said a church leader in a message sent to World Watch Monitor.
On Tuesday, October 4 the situation suddenly deteriorated in Bangui following the killing of a senior army officer at PK5, the Muslim enclave of the capital. Col Marcel Mobeka, an aide-de-camp to the former president, Catherine Samba-Panza, was fatally wounded when a man opened fire on his car. More than 20 were killed in a shoot-out between the Army and militia in the area the following day.
“And as in politics nothing happens by chance, we do not know what tonight and the days to come may have in store for us. Yet again, the people living in my part of town have fled,” said the church leader.
Violence in south
The violence in the capital follows an outbreak in the south, close to the CAR border, where on September 26 dozens were massacred in the predominantly Christian town of Kouango.
According to a number of sources contacted by WWM, more than 85 people lost their lives, while 152 were injured (although earlier reports had indicated up to 200 might have died).
An altercation between a Muslim and a man whose wife he had taken by force culminated in the Muslim’s death, a WWM source said. In response, Seleka militants descended on the town in force, killing men, women and children: our source told of an “indescribable” scene of horror, which also saw three churches and over 500 properties reduced to ashes. It forced locals to flee across the Oubangui river to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Other acts of violence, which left an unknown number of victims, have been reported at Koui in the north.
Open Doors analysis
Yonas Dembele, analyst at the Research Unit of Open Doors, a charity which supports Christians under pressure for their faith around the world, said: “After the March election that was supposed to herald [stability], this [latest] massacre is the largest and most notable indication of the resumption of the sectarian violence that pitted Muslims and Christians against one another.
“The President faces a very thorough challenge in stopping the violence and imposing law and order. Unless the government and the UN peacekeeping forces manage to stabilise the situation quickly, the so-called ‘Christian’ anti-Balaka militia could join in.”
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonne Nzapalainga, has been promoted to Cardinal by Pope Francis. Nzapalainga was one of CAR’s three religious leaders recognised for their major efforts in averting a complete breakdown of law and order in CAR, especially in 2013-14.