Peacemakers desperately needed
By Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin — Originally published in Assist News
In early 2013 the Central African Republic (CAR) government desperately appealed for help as bands of local and international Islamic jihadis backed by Sudan and Iran advanced on the capital, Bangui. But President Bozize had recently signed oil concessions with China, leading the US and former colonial power France to think that regime change in Bangui might serve their interests. They therefore refused assistance and let CAR — which is French-speaking and 70 percent Christian — fall to Arabic-speaking local and international Islamic rebels. Only when CAR was in total chaos did France send in peacekeepers. Contrary to reports, the conflict was religious from the very beginning.
Likewise, the Seleka Muslim forces did not kill and burn ‘indiscriminately’; rather, they targeted Christians and spared Muslims. Compounding the tragedy, many Muslims betrayed their Christian neighbours and welcomed Seleka, anticipating that it would usher in an Islamic order wherein Muslims would be privileged simply by virtue of being Muslim. Some Muslims even joined in the looting of their Christian neighbours. Consequently, all trust has been shattered. With nobody coming to their aid, the traditional village self-defence units known as ‘anti-balaka’ went on the offensive to liberate CAR from the scourge of Seleka and exact revenge. Whilst Church leaders, with support from some local Muslim clerics, have been leading the call for reconciliation, leaderless rogue anti-balaka and ex-Seleka militias are out of control, making it impossible to break the cycle of violence.
Hundreds still being killed
As was noted in RLPB 258 (30 April) Seleka rebels are still killing and plundering throughout the centre and north-west of CAR. Around 100 people were killed in the past week in dozens of villages across north-west CAR close to the border with Chad. The fighting commenced on May 1, allegedly after armed men, some reportedly in uniform, plundered Seleka’s food reserves. According to the head of the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Amy Martin, several armed groups are operating in the border area, including Seleka fighters who have formed alliances with armed Fulani herdsmen. Though it is not clear who is committing the violence, the deputy prefect in Markounda, Lucian Mbaigoto, said the killers were speaking Arabic and Fulani. Everaldo de Souza, a priest in Dekoa, told Reuters that ex-Seleka rebels had killed at least seven people in three nearby villages, though he expected the death toll to be much higher. In Mala, terrified citizens sought shelter in the Catholic church until it too was targeted. Yetina Isaac, a resident of Markounda, described how rebels entered homes, killed the occupants and set fire to the houses, burning the frail and the dead. She also reported having seen children ‘thrown alive into the fire’.
Muslims call for partition
Muslims in the north are calling for partition and for a separate state. Apart fron Sudan and Iran and possibly some other Islamic states, there is no support for that as most recognise that such an entity would simply become a base for international Islamic mercenaries operating mostly at the behest of Sudan and Iran. While Seleka violence is receiving little media coverage, news of ‘Christian ethnic cleansing of Muslims’ is rife, not just in non-Muslim media, but in Muslim media. For example, Iranian media are warning Muslims that a ‘Christian’ genocide of Muslims is under way, with echoes of Rwanda. This creates a seriously dangerous climate for Christians. Foreign militants should be expelled, rebels must be disarmed and leaderless rogue anti-balaka need to be reined in or the situation could become much worse. CAR desperately needs peace.
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