Ethnic cleansing in the Central African Republic

By May 30, 2014
Anti-Balaka militia.  (Image courtesy Bagassi Koura, VOA French via Wikimedia Commons)

Anti-Balaka militia.
(Image courtesy Bagassi Koura, VOA French
via Wikimedia Commons)

UPDATE: A team of Open Doors workers in Central African Republic (CAR) report that the atmosphere in Bangui remains extremely tense…“Early Thursday morning a large number of young people and anti-Balaka members flooded the streets, also around the area where we are. They used large tires they set on fire to block the roads. They demonstrated against the Burundian contingent in Misca. More and more people joined the protest. A revenge attack is likely. We can’t go anywhere. There is constant gunfire.”

Not long after this report, the mosque was destroyed, but no injuries were reported.

On Friday morning, May 30, staff reported that the atmosphere remained very tense and has even deteriorated somewhat. Although shooting had subsided, even more people have taken to the streets to demonstrate against the Burundian Misca forces. 

Central African Republic (MNN) — Some may amount the turmoil in the Central African Republic to a fight between followers of Islam and followers of Christ. But the battle for the CAR is more than Muslim vs. Christian.

“In my humble opinion, it is more an ethnic cleansing,” says Jim Hocking of Water for Good, an in-country partner of Living Water International and Reach Beyond (formerly known as HCJB Global).

Christian anti-balaka militants, once formed to protect communities from attacks by Muslim radicals, have shifted their agenda and are now attacking entire Muslim communities.

“The Muslims used to run most of the economy in the country; now, all of a sudden, they’re gone,” Hocking states, adding that Muslims in Bangui used to number between 30,000 and 50,000. Today, their population has dwindled below 900.

“And the question remains for most of us: who’s going to pick up that huge piece that’s been left open? There’s nobody really ready to pick up that piece of the lost economy that was run by the Muslims.”

(Photo courtesy Open Doors/World Watch Monitor)

(Photo courtesy Open Doors/World Watch Monitor)

The Central African Republic has been in a downward spiral since January, and Hocking says the outlook is bleak. Muslim rebel group Séléka and its front man, Michel Djotodia, took control of the government in March 2013. Djotodia folded under diplomatic pressure and resigned in January; the country’s first female head of state, who identifies herself as Christian, has since taken the helm.

A power shift hasn’t changed anything on the ground, though. Tit-for-tat fighting this week in Bangui resulted in at least 30 violent deaths and kidnappings in two locations.

Over the weekend, at least three Muslim youth were violently killed by Christian anti-balaka militants while on their way to a soccer match. “Their sex organs and hearts have been removed,” Muslim community spokesman Ousmane Abakar told Reuters.

In retaliation for this attack, radicals reportedly belonging to Séléka attacked a church in the area on Wednesday.

“Grenades were thrown over the wall [and] people were killed; there were at least 10 or 11, some estimates up to 30, from the Catholic priest who was there,” reports Hocking, who confirmed the attack with his contacts in the region.

Anti-balaka militants “really aren’t Christians, they’re just non-Muslims,” he adds. In the CAR, Christian affiliation is based more on ethnicity than being a true follower of Jesus.

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Girls fetching water from a shallow hand dug well. This is the only water source for 3,500 people at the Castor refugee center.  (Image, caption courtesy Water for Good)

Girls fetching water from a shallow hand-dug well.
This is the only water source for 3,500 people
at the Castor refugee center.
(Image, caption courtesy Water for Good)

Despite a daily threat of danger, ministry teams are still bringing clean water and the Living Water of Christ to villages.

“We continue to work where we can,” Hocking confirms. “But we never know where we can go next. It is more and more difficult to travel around the country.”

As Living Water’s in-country representative, Water for Good drills and maintains clean water wells throughout the nation. In one village, they’re maintaining a safe drinking source for over 500 people.

In Boali, Water for Good operates a shortwave Christian radio station in partnership with Reach Beyond. In response to the ongoing conflict, programmers developed content focusing on peace and reconciliation.

“[ReachBeyond’s] Technical Center is one of our great partners,” Hocking notes, adding, “They help us keep the radio station on the air; we’re on the air about 9-10 hours a day.”

See how you can help the people of CAR through this Water for Good, Living Water and ReachBeyond partnership.

“We, as the Christians of this country, can make an impact in that country if we will just take the time to do it,” says Hocking. “One dollar will give one African water for one year.”

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