The Central African Republic (CAR) continues to suffer a nation-wide escalation in lawlessness, sectarianism, and violence following a coup d’état by Islamic insurgency, Séléka, in March of last year. Quickly ousted from power, Séléka rebels have been forced to retreat toward the CAR’s borders with neighboring Cameroon and Chad, largely as result of reprisal attacks by anti-balaka (against the machete) militias. Throughout the conflict, Christians have suffered violent attacks in an culture increasingly plagued by impunity. Victimized by Séléka during its short reign, Christians initially saw the rise of the anti-balaka as a positive development, immediately seeking protection from the vigilante forces for their easily targeted communities. However, as the anti-balaka have now begun seeking out violence, Christians are now caught by fire exchanged between Séléka remnants, armed Muslim communities, and the widely feared and increasingly hated anti-balaka.
05/10/2014 Central Africa Republic (ANS) – 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.
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 1 May, 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.’