Central African Republic (ODM/MNN)– Seleka rebels over the weekend took the Central African Republic capital, Bangui, causing President Bozizé to flee the country.
In the chaos that followed the coup, looting was rampant. In a bid to win over popular support, Seleka forces began making a show of punishing looters, proclaiming "zero tolerance." However, the damage was already done.
Sources told Open Doors that as rebels approached, civilians fled. Some crossed the river Ubangui to DRC in small rafts while others made for Cameroon. The UN, UNICEF, and other NGOs also left.
Locals who couldn't flee the city–including an Open Doors co-worker (name withheld for security purposes)–are trying to remain safe by staying indoors behind lock and key. Power lines were cut, and communications are down. Food prices skyrocketed overnight by 80%.
Open Doors is concerned for the Christian population of CAR who seem particularly vulnerable in these circumstances. Initial eyewitness reports indicate grave disrespect to human life and property. Their team is aware of at least one pastor who has been killed and several churches that have been destroyed in the fray.
France indicated that they will bolster their small contingency in CAR to protect French nationals and called on the rebels to remain calm and show respect for human life.
However, rebels seemed to be targeting government buildings and Christian churches, homes and businesses while Muslim properties are spared. The Open Doors contact reported, "They go systematically from house to house and loot everything of value. The owners are forced to open their houses, flee in fear to the bush, or across the river or face death. There are many casualties and killings. Many people trying to escape over the Ubangui River to DRC have drowned because the boats that carried them were too small for the number of people on board."
Everywhere Christian institutions, businesses and farms became victims of the rebels who robbed people of all their food and supplies and intimidated people at gunpoint, in an attempt to get them to give up hidden possessions such as money.
Open Doors is watching the situation as closely as possible, given the cutting of electricity and water and unavailability of communications infrastructure. The Open Doors co-worker has been forced into hiding indoors along with the rest of Bangui dwellers.
Please pray for the Lord's protection over His children in the city, also for the Open Doors network in CAR. Please pray for God's strength and encouragement to the Body of Christ as they face these uncertain days.