News June 21, 2017 at 05:00 pm

Hundreds of Muslims Find Refuge in Central African Republic Church

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

Fredrick Ngugi June 21, 2017 at 05:00 pm

June 21, 2017 at 05:00 pm | News

Muslim families trapped by violence in the PK13 neighborhood near Bangui, CAR. Photo credit: Human Rights Watch

More than 1,500 Muslims have found refuge in a Catholic church in the troubled Central African Republic (CAR), after they were displaced from their homes in May due to the ongoing conflict between Christian and Muslim vigilante groups.

Their recent attempt to move to a neighboring mosque in Tokoyo, a largely Muslim district in southern CAR, failed after a group calling itself “Anti-balaka,” a largely Christian militia group, attacked the mosque, leading to the killing of a local imam, reports Al Jazeera.

In an act of solidarity, the Catholic Bishop sent trucks to Tokoyo to evacuate civilians and return them back to the church for their safety.

However as the weeks go by, the internally displaced people (IDPs) reportedly worry that their continued stay at the cathedral in Bangassou town may lead to another attack.

“There are men who move around town [Bangassou] with guns,” said Father Alain Blaise Bissialo, the priest at the church.

“The situation is not safe enough to leave, and so they cannot move from here.”

The IDPs say there is a shortage of food and clothing at the church since the Anti-balaka has been blocking traders from bringing them food.

Deadly Sectarian Violence

CAR violence

CAR violence. Photo credit: Freedom Portal

More than 100 people — among them six UN peacekeepers — were killed last week in southern CAR, prompting the United Nations (UN) to express “grave alarm” over the continued violence fueled by ethnic and religious rivalries.

The violence represents a renewed escalation in a civil war that started in 2013, following the ouster of then-President Francois Bozize by Muslim Seleka fighters and reprisal killings of civilian Muslims by Anti-balaka militias.

The UN has warned that the renewed hostilities in rural villages may spark violence in areas that have been enjoying relative calm.

“The hard-earned relative calm in [the capital] Bangui and some of the bigger towns in CAR risks being eclipsed by the descent of some rural areas into increasing sectarian violence, with defenseless civilians – as usual – paying the highest price,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein warned.

On February 14, Faustin-Archange Touadéra supporters celebrate his win in Bangui

On February 14, Faustin-Archange Touadéra supporters celebrate his win in Bangui. Photo credit: L’Express

Last year, CAR held a peaceful general election, but a year down the line, President Faustin-Archange Touadera’s administration is yet to call to order to the more than 14 militia groups controlling a huge chunk of the nation’s countryside.

These militia groups, including different incarnations of the feared Seleka, have taken control of major towns in rural areas, monitoring roads, collecting taxes, and policing the population.

In April 2014, the UN deployed a multidimensional peacekeeping operation, MINUSCA, to CAR in order to protect civilians and support peaceful transition processes in the country.

This deployment has spurred a return to normalcy in many areas, especially the capital Bangui, but the war appears to be far from over.

Conversations

Must Read