900 Muslim Refugees Take Shelter In One Central African Republic Church

Story: 900 Muslim Refugees Take Shelter In One Central African Republic Church

By: Krista Larson (AP, June 5, 2014)




Since early January 2014, Muslims residing in the western part of Central African Republic (CAR) have been the targets of “ethnic cleansing” by a militia organization known as the anti-balaka. They have been single-minded in their purpose of displacing Muslims and forcing them out of the country. Showing no mercy or leniency, members of the anti-balaka have killed and wounded men, women, elders, and children alike.

Amnesty international has been documenting and collecting first hand reports of the attacks on Muslims occurring in towns such as Bouali, Boyali, Bossembele, Bossemptele, Baoro, Bawi, and the capital, Banqui. One of the deadliest occurred in Bossemptele on the 18th January 2014, where at least 100 Muslims were killed.

These ‘crimes against humanity’ are the result of a large-scale tragedy developing in the CAR. It began in March 2013 with the Muslim Seleka coalition seizing power in the CAR. The Seleka unleashed a campaign of violence mostly focused toward the Christian community.

The Seleka killed thousands of Christian civilians, looting and destroying their homes in the process. The Seleka left power in January 2014, but not before the abusive and lawless nature of their rule gave rise to horrible sectarian hatred and violence. In turn, this gave rise to the formation of the primary Christian militia organization called the anti-balaka.[1]

The news article essentially picks up the situation six months into the conflict. The UN authorized the deployment of peacekeeping forces into the country, but they have been slow to deploy to the regions urgently requiring their protection.

Carnot was fortunate enough to have Cameroonian peacekeepers in the area to help keep the anti-balaka away from the 900 Muslims who, since early February 2014, sought the safety of the Carnot Catholic church compound. The Reverend Justin Nary and his colleagues have been helping ever since the town was attacked.

Food and water are available, as well as access to medical care, thanks to Doctors Without Frontiers, who run a clinic there. Local merchants come to the compound and sell food and goods to those trapped in the church compound. Peace Keepers will escort the young children as they walk the cattle and animals brought to the church by those families seeking protection.

However, the question remains: how much longer will the Muslims remain in the compound? There have been calls for the Peace Keepers to provide safe escort for the trapped Muslims to the borders of the country, but the military maintains that its mandate is to provide protection and not to provide escort duty.

In the meantime, while political wills maneuver and search for solutions, the future of Carnot, if not the whole country of CAR, remains for the moment uncertain and dark.

[1] Contents of this portion of the story taken from: ETHNIC CLEANSING AND SECTARIAN KILLINGS IN THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, Amnesty International, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AFR19/004/2014/en/5d24015d-fb4e-4bdb-85f8-687e7751872b/afr190042014en.pdf, accessed 23 June 2014.



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