Sectarian Muslim versus Christian violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has continued with armed groups and marauding gangs, both Muslim and Christian, almost nonstop across the country, since the violence began in 2013, when Muslim rebels overthrew the Christian president and replaced him with a Muslim.
Breitbart (h/t Marvin W) The capital city Bangui has been relatively spared from violence in the last year, but this has changed in the last month, with sectarian attacks killing dozens of people, including attacks on a Catholic Church and a mosque.
The violence mostly took place in the PK5 district of Bangui. Bangui is a mostly Catholic city, but PK5 is a mostly Muslim enclave within Bangui. I wrote about PK5 in November 2015, when Pope Francis visited Bangui, and particularly paid a visit to the PK5 mosque.
The exact sequence of events isn’t completely clear, but it appears that the violence began early in April when MINUSCA, the UN peacekeeper mission for CAR, joined local CAR security forces to launch a joint security operation in PK5 to dismantle militia bases that were hiding out in PK5.
MINUSCA is the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (CAR), launched in April 2014 as a peacekeeping mission. Unfortunately, there has been little peace for MINUSCA to keep. CAR is a huge country, and pretty much the entire country is in flames, so MINUSCA has mostly restricted itself to Bangui.
On April 10, the joint security operation turned into a bloody massacre, as the security forces battled several armed groups in PK5, known as the “self-defense forces,” a name that reflects lack of respect in the Muslim community for either MINUSCA or CAR’s current government. A total of 21 people were killed in a four-hour gun battle between the security forces and the self-defense forces, including a peacekeeper from Rwanda. 11 peacekeepers were wounded. AFP (9-Apr)
Angry protesters bring corpses to MINUSCA headquarters in Bangui
On April 11, hundreds of angry demonstrators from PK5 held a peaceful march in Bangui, and in a dramatic gesture, carried the corpses of 17 of the 21 who had been killed, and laid the corpses in front of the MINUSCA mission headquarters. According to one demonstrator:
“We, ourselves, no longer understand anything. Does their mission consist of shooting at civilians?”
MINUSCA denied that civilians had been targeted, and said that only criminal gangs had been targeted. A spokesman criticized the demonstrators:
“This is not an operation against communities and specifically the Muslim community. The Muslim community asked our troops to launch the operation and put an end to the criminal activities.
We regret the fact that the bodies were being manipulated, while they should be buried like every person who dies.”So-called Muslim “self-defense groups” have been springing up in PK5, claiming to protect the Muslim civilians.
The relationship between MINUSCA and the self-defense groups has become increasingly acrimonious. The self-defense groups claim that MINUSCA is trying to drive the Muslims out of Bangui entirely, while MINUSCA accuses them of extortion and violence against civilians. Reuters (11-Apr) and The Defense Post
The self-defense group ‘The Force’ gets revenge
One of the PK5 self-defense groups, “The Force,” got revenge on May 1 when gunmen attacked a service at a Catholic Church in Bangui. Some 2000 people had gathered for the service, when armed men threw grenades and fired on the church. The attack lasted for hours, killing a priest and at least 15 people from the church, and injuring hundreds more.
After attacking the church, the perpetrators moved into neighboring districts, looting shops and homes and attacking civilians. An Evangelical church member was killed outside his home.
The attack on a place of worship not only violates the right to freedom of religion or belief, but also threatens the social fabric of the community that religious leaders of all faiths have worked to maintain throughout the recent conflict.”
Amnesty International issued the usual near-boilerplate statement:
“Central African authorities and MINUSCA must send an immediate and clear message to all armed groups and their allies in CAR: No attack against civilians will be tolerated and all those suspected of committing war crimes and other serious human rights violations and abuses will be brought to justice.”
Central African Republic crisis civil war continues
Despite Amnesty International’s laughable rhetoric, “No attack against civilians will be tolerated,” CAR is in a generational crisis civil war, and there’s no end in sight.
In 2013, a Muslim rebel group named the Seleka led a coup in the Central African Republic (CAR), overthrowing the Christian President Francois Bozize and bringing the country into an ethno-religious civil war.