CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Hell hath no fury like a population of African Christians scorned

Central African Republic

Religious violence in the Central African Republic could force its entire Muslim population to flee as thousands of Muslims have been killed and nearly a million – 20 percent of the population – have been displaced over the past few months…leading to widespread speculation that the entire Muslim population will soon have to leave the country.

The conflict began in December 2012 and has seen tit-for-tat exchanges of violence between an alliance of largely Muslim militia groups and Christian “anti-balaka” militias, resulting in thousands of deaths, according to Human Rights Watch.

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Violence has escalated since March 2013, when a coup d’état by the loosely organized Muslim alliance, known as Seleka, ousted then President Francois Bozize, a Christian. The Central African Republic has a Christian majority, with a substantial Muslim minority. 

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The overthrow was followed by the installation of the nation’s first Muslim president, Michel Djotodia, who stepped down January 10 amid international pressure over the continued bloodshed. Last month, Catherine Samba-Panza was sworn in as the Central African Republic’s first female president.

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BBC (h/t Ros L)   Human Rights Watch emergency director Peter Bouckaert said this could affect the economy, as Muslims control the livestock market and other businesses. Violence between the Christian majority and Muslims has torn the country apart since a coup last year. 

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He said he had personally witnessed a Muslim being hacked to death in Bangui, in retaliation for the reported killing of six people by Muslim fighters. The very evidence of their ‘Muslims’]existence in this country is being erased.”

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Tens of thousands of Muslims have already fled the to neighboring Cameroon and Chad. The CAR, one of Africa’s poorest nations, has been in chaos for more than a year since Muslim Seleka rebels seized power. Violence, largely perpetrated by either Christian anti-Balaka militias or Seleka members, has continued despite interventions by thousands of peacekeepers from the African Union and the former colonial power, France.

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“It’s just a matter of days or weeks before the last pockets of Muslims in this country leave for Chad, fleeing this wave of violence,” Mr Bouckaert told the BBC World Service. “There are literally entire neighbourhoods which are completely emptied of their Muslim population. Their homes are being systematically taken down – roofs, doors, windows, everything is just being taken down. So the very evidence of their existence in this country is being erased.”

Muslims fleeing
Muslims fleeing

On Sunday, he said, he was woken up to the sound of loud explosions coming from a Muslim area of Bangui and went with his team to investigate. “We came upon a body of a Muslim man being burned in the street,” he said. “The local people told us that overnight six civilians were killed by armed Muslim men in this area and they captured one of them and lynched him in the street and then burned his body.

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Christians cheering

As we were there, they caught a second Muslim man and hacked him to death.” The latest victim of the violence in Bangui, he said in a tweet, was a Christian boy who had come to buy wood near the central mosque.

Muslim neighborhoods were being abandoned, Mr Bouckaert said. “The violence is now coming mostly from the anti-Balaka militias who are systematically attacking Muslim neighborhoods but the Seleka fighters are still around.” The HRW official said Rwandan troops had told him the situation in the CAR had brought “back horrible memories” of the genocide in their own country two decades ago.

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Christians soldiers winning