Religious violence in the Central African Republic could force its entire Muslim population to flee as thousands of Muslims have been killed and nearly a million – 20 percent of the population – have been displaced over the past few months…leading to widespread speculation that the entire Muslim population will soon have to leave the country.
The conflict began in December 2012 and has seen tit-for-tat exchanges of violence between an alliance of largely Muslim militia groups and Christian “anti-balaka” militias, resulting in thousands of deaths, according to Human Rights Watch.
Violence has escalated since March 2013, when a coup d’état by the loosely organized Muslim alliance, known as Seleka, ousted then President Francois Bozize, a Christian. The Central African Republic has a Christian majority, with a substantial Muslim minority.
The overthrow was followed by the installation of the nation’s first Muslim president, Michel Djotodia, who stepped down January 10 amid international pressure over the continued bloodshed. Last month, Catherine Samba-Panza was sworn in as the Central African Republic’s first female president.
BBC (h/t Ros L) Human Rights Watch emergency director Peter Bouckaert said this could affect the economy, as Muslims control the livestock market and other businesses. Violence between the Christian majority and Muslims has torn the country apart since a coup last year.
He said he had personally witnessed a Muslim being hacked to death in Bangui, in retaliation for the reported killing of six people by Muslim fighters. The very evidence of their ‘Muslims’]existence in this country is being erased.”
Tens of thousands of Muslims have already fled the to neighboring Cameroon and Chad. The CAR, one of Africa’s poorest nations, has been in chaos for more than a year since Muslim Seleka rebels seized power. Violence, largely perpetrated by either Christian anti-Balaka militias or Seleka members, has continued despite interventions by thousands of peacekeepers from the African Union and the former colonial power, France.