Muslims in Central African Republic fear extermination
(GIN) — A Muslim-led coup that brought chaos in the Central African Republic now threatens to ignite one of the worst religious wars on the continent.
Observers fear Muslims will be violently exterminated by Christians who suffered heavy losses during the short period the country was headed by Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, who seized power in a coup with a rebel army, also Muslim.
The presence of 1,600 French soldiers and 5,000 African troops has failed to stop the violence, despite the confiscation and destruction of seized weapons.
Djotodia ruled the CAR from March to last month. It was hoped his departure would bring stability to the country, but humanitarian and human rights workers say there is more violence now than at any time since the coup.
“Civilians remain in constant fear for their lives and have been largely left to fend for themselves,” Martine Flokstra, emergency coordinator for the aid agency Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement Feb.7, adding that the violence had reached “extreme and unprecedented” levels.
On that day, thousands of Muslims hopped aboard trucks packed with their possessions and drove out of Bangui, as Christians cheered their departure or tried to loot the trucks as they drove through Christian areas. At least one Muslim man, who fell from a truck, was killed by a mob.
The CAR was in the hands of undemocratic leaders since France annexed the country in the 1880s. Revolts by local residents were frequent but failed to dislodge the French puppets until 1960. Still, one dictator followed the next, including a self-declared emperor, Jean-Bedel Bokassa.
Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist who helped end a civil war in her country in 2003, remarked that Western countries who declare “peace” in a war-torn country, often overlook “nation building” — the necessary conflict resolution and reconciliation so that people may learn to live together.
Meanwhile, newly-named leader Catherine Samba-Panza warned human rights violators would not go unpunished. “Without justice we can’t bring peace to the Central African Republic,” she said “… A number of individuals have done terrible things. They will answer for these acts. I won’t be protecting any bandits or crooked politicians or agitators who have led the country to the situation we have now.”