, , ,

Sectarian violence may further destabilise the Central African Republic

By Cristina Casabón

In Central African Republic (CAR), Muslims used to live in peace with Christians and communal violence is unprecedented, but the country descended into a widespread religious conflict last year. Scores of civilians have been killed since early June 2014, adding to the thousands* who have been killed since the violence began in March 2013.

Right groups and international media have been warming about what has been described as a ‘religious conflict’  in the country, where civilians are being targeted along religious lines. 

Apart from the ‘Christian vs Muslim narrative’, another problems in CAR has been mentioned, such as the political and economic instability, the widespread of corruption and the official impunity. The conflict is far more complex than just a Christian-Muslim enmity, and maybe the institutionalised discrimination is one of the key factors below the surface.

The militias in CAR trace their origins to the muslim minority, who formed a coalition known as Séléka in order to struggle against discrimination by the government and the institutions. Ahmet Adam, brother of a rebel commander and son of the Miskine mosque’s imam assured that “Muslims were viewed as foreigners in the capital.”

The crisis began after the Séléka carried out a coup on 24 March 2013, claiming that President Bozizé had heaped benefits on the Christian group to the detriment of others.

Sectarian violence followed the change in government as militias supporting Bozizé and militias from the Séléka clashed. Bozizé fled to neighbouring Cameroon and leader Michel Djotodia declared himself the first Muslim president. Over the following ten months, the members of the Séléka rebel coalition looted, raped and killed Christians upon seizing control of Bangui.

Séléka abuses spurred the emergence of the anti-balaka brigades (“machete proof” in Sango), made up of Christians and anti Séléka insurgents. In the last four months of 2013, anti-balaka fighters took revenge, carrying out massive attacks on Muslim minority, particularly in CAR’s Northwest. International peacekeeping forces were slow to deploy across the country, and as Amnesty International reported, ‘the field was open to the anti-balaka to assert their power and authority.’

After three days of talks, a ceasefire was signed on 24 July 2014 in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. The talks were mediated by Congolese president Denis Sassou Nguesso. French peacekeepers continued to monitor the central city of Bambari amidst the Muslims lack of confidence in the ceasefire. On 25 July, Séléka’s military leader Joseph Zindeko rejected the ceasefire agreement and, instead, called for the partition of the Central African Republic into two separate states with Muslims in the north and Christians in the south.

This summer, officials in Mbrès stated that 34 people were killed by Séléka fighters in Mbrès and neighbouring villages between 10–15 August. In Bangui, the capital, the situation changes day to day. Clashes between civilian groups and other criminal activity are on the rise, and no one feels safe in CAR. Now, internal displaced are inin dire need of basic supplies and services, many of them living in crowded camps with deteriorating conditions.

The last attacks, causing large-scale civilian casualties as well as widespread destruction and displacement, replicate the violence that has gripped western regions of the war-torn Central African Republic for several months, indicating that the sectarian conflict is steadily moving eastward and may further destabilise the country.

*Unknown number killed or wounded

0 comentarios

Dejar un comentario

¿Quieres unirte a la conversación?
Siéntete libre de contribuir