Central African Republic: Another Massacre
by Elizabeth Kendal, Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin
In March 2013 Bangui — the capital of predominantly Christian (some 76 percent) Central African Republic (CAR) — was overrun and seized by ‘Seleka’ — a foreign-backed alliance of well-armed local and foreign Islamic militias. Seleka’s advance and rule were brutal. But for CAR’s Christians the worst was how so many of their Muslim neighbours celebrated Seleka’s arrival, even rushing to loot the homes of their now imperilled Christian neighbours. Trust was shattered.
Eventually, in January 2014, Seleka was driven from the capital along with its supporters and indeed any hapless Muslim who could be found. At that point, France and the UN intervened; now the conflict is frozen with nearly half the state under the control of Islamic militants.
Violence and insecurity persist
Violence and insecurity persist, especially on the ‘front-line’. The freezing of the conflict has left Christians whose towns and villages are now in rebel-held territory in a precarious position. The Islamic rebels (and their foreign backers) want CAR formally partitioned so the north might become an independent Islamic State – complete with its diamonds [map]. Determined to preserve the de-facto partition, Islamic militants are undermining all the government’s efforts to promote reconciliation.
Kaga-Bandoro, the capital of the Nana-Grebizi economic prefecture, is a market town in the northern Central African Republic, some 245km north of the capital, Bangui. A mostly Christian city, Kaga-Bandoro is also home to many thousands of displaced Christians from across the north-central region. But Kaga-Bandoro is in rebel-controlled territory, meaning its mostly Christian residents are essentially being held hostage. According to the local media organ, Radio Ndeke Luka, ‘anti-Balaka’ fighters [village defense militias] from various villages across the region had gathered in the village of Ndomete, some 10km from Kaga-Bandoro. They were allegedly plotting to liberate the city and drive the Islamic militants out.
Murderous rampage by Muslims
However, on the evening of Friday 16 September, ex-Seleka fighters under the command of General Alkatim Mahamat swept through Ndomete, going door-to-door killing Christian villagers. According to Radio Ndeke Luka, 19 were slaughtered while dozens were injured. The spokesman to the Presidency, Albert Mokpeme, called it a ‘massacre’. The next day clashes erupted in Kaga-Bandoro where at least five more were killed. An aid worker was seriously wounded.
The rebels rampaged, looting the radio station, local businesses, aid agencies, as well as the Church of the Nativity which hosts and supports a large population of displaced Christians. Peacekeepers from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) were deployed to the area. Having separated the parties, they are now keeping the ‘peace’ and calling on the belligerents to lay down their weapons.
Local Christian leaders are skeptical. ‘If the government is not going to beef up the security, then we are going to defend ourselves,’ one church leader told Morning Star News. ‘We shall not keep quiet as our brothers are dying.’