By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (ANS – October 11, 2016) — After a period of relative calm, violence has returned to the Central African Republic (CAR), which was wracked by near-civil war and inter-religious violence between 2012 and 2014.
According to World Watch Monitor (WWM), attacks carried out by mainly Muslim rebels from the disbanded Seleka group have left scores dead in recent weeks in Bangui, the capital, and other regions of the country.
Even though the Seleka coalition was officially disbanded three years ago, CAR’s two prevalent dominant militia groupings are still linked to either the Seleka or to self-defense forces which arose against them, the “anti-Balaka” (anti-machete), often animist or nominally “Christian.”
“The old demons of reprisal attacks appear to be getting the upper hand again,” said a church leader in a message sent to World Watch Monitor.
On Tuesday, October 4, 2016, the situation suddenly deteriorated in Bangui following the killing of a senior army officer at PK5, the Muslim enclave of the capital. Col. Marcel Mobeka, an aide-de-camp to the former president, Catherine Samba-Panza, was fatally wounded when a man opened fire on his car. More than 20 were killed in a shoot-out between the Army and militia in the area the following day.
“And as in politics nothing happens by chance, we do not know what tonight and the days to come may have in store for us. Yet again, the people living in my part of town have fled,” added the church leader.
The violence in the capital follows an outbreak in the south, close to the CAR border, where on 26 Sept. dozens were massacred in the predominantly Christian town of Kouango.
According to a number of sources contacted by WWM, more than 85 people lost their lives, while 152 were injured (although earlier reports had indicated up to 200 might have died).
An altercation between a Muslim and a man whose wife he had taken by force culminated in the Muslim’s death, a WWM source said. In response, Seleka militants descended on the town in force, killing men, women and children: our source told of an “indescribable” scene of horror, which also saw three churches and over 500 properties reduced to ashes. It forced locals to flee across the Oubangui River to the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Other acts of violence, which left an unknown number of victims, have been reported at Koui in the north.
Last month, as WWM reported, on September 15-16, 2016, scores were killed as members of Seleka attacked communities around the town of Kaga Bandoro, 217 miles north of Bangui.
“Now news emerging from survivors and displaced people has revealed the scale of the violence,” its story added.
A WWM contact, who was in Kaga Bandoro to present a seminar when fighting broke out overnight on 16 Sep., said that some ex-Seleka fighters even came into the church where the seminar was taking place and injured pastors there for the training.
World Watch Monitor has chronicled some of the September violence:
September 15, 2016
Seleka entered Ndomete, around six miles outside Kaga Bandoro. They went door to door, killing five people, including a local Catholic priest, whose church and house they looted, along with other houses.
WWM said that according to locals, all this happened under the watch of Pakistani troops from the UN MINUSCA.
Adoum Ndako, 31, a commercial motorbike rider, was stabbed when he ran into Seleka men.
In another settlement nearly two miles from Kaga Bandoro, Seleka killed four people and looted the Chapelle de la Nativité Catholic Church.
September 16, 2016
1 am: Changement Constantin (43), was shot dead outside his house in Kaga Bandoro. Seleka members entered his brother’s home, opposite his, to steal his motorbike. Constantin rushed out when he heard his sister-in-law scream for help, and was killed. A member of the Eglise Co-operation Evangelique en Centrafrique, he left a wife and six children.
8 am: Firmain Feidang, 29, was killed as he passed the UN MINUSCA office in Kaga Bandoro. Three Seleka men on a motorbike passed, and shouted at him to leave the road. He obeyed, but then one of them called him over and shot him dead. A member of the Eglise Baptiste CEBI, he left a wife and three children.
“When Seleka reached the church where the seminar was taking place, they went to the pastor’s house and assaulted him, before going into the church, looting it and threatening 15 pastors lodging there,” said WWM. “The Seleka men ordered them to lie face down, threatening to kill them. At gunpoint, they beat them with their fists and machetes, before taking money and other valuables, including the bicycles on which they’d come to the seminar. One Seleka member protested, though, and the group eventually heeded his call and left.”
The September violence erupted when members of the anti-Balaka group attacked a faction of Seleka rebels. But other factors could also have triggered it, according to a local source who preferred to remain unnamed:
“Seleka considers Kaga Bandoro the capital of their self-declared republic in the northeast of CAR, the ‘République de Logone’, and that they have a right to kill all non-Muslims there.
“Secondly, [Seleka] were angered over claims that hospital staff had not given appropriate care to Seleka members injured in an accident.
“Thirdly, they heard that anti-Balaka – seeing that Seleka had not been disarmed and continued to assault, kill and loot – had put up roadblocks in [Seleka’s] area. But when anti-Balaka militia heard that Seleka planned to attack, they fled, leaving locals exposed to Seleka retribution.”
Other acts of violence, which left an unknown number of victims, have been reported in Koui in the north.
A CAR church leader told World Watch Monitor this outbreak shows the situation is still fragile and that there is a need to proceed to the disarmament and demobilization of militias, which are particularly active in the north and north-east.
Yonas Dembele, analyst at the Research Unit of Open Doors, a charity which supports Christians under pressure for their faith around the world, said: “After the March election that was supposed to herald [stability], this [latest] massacre is the largest and most notable indication of the resumption of the sectarian violence that pitted Muslims and Christians against one another.
“The President faces a very thorough challenge in stopping the violence and imposing law and order. Unless the government and the UN peacekeeping forces manage to stabilize the situation quickly, the so-called ‘Christian’ anti-Balaka militia could join in.”
Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonne Nzapalainga, has been promoted to Cardinal by Pope Francis. Nzapalainga was one of CAR’s three religious leaders recognized for their major efforts in averting a complete breakdown of law and order in CAR, especially in 2013-14.
For more information, please go to: https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/.
Note: The Central African Republic (CAR) is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo to the south and Cameroon to the west. The CAR had an estimated population of around 4.7 million as of 2014.
Photo captions: 1) Chadian soldiers wait on a truck near the Damara, the last strategic town between the rebels from the Seleka coalition and the country’s capital Bangui. (Photo: AFP/Getty). 2) Shocking picture of a man cutting off a portion of a burning body in a street in Bangui, CAR. 3) Map of the region. 4) Firmain Feidang, 29, was shot dead by a Seleka man as he passed the UN MINUSCA office. (World Watch Monitor). 5) Norma and Dan Wooding on a reporting assignment for ANS.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is the author of some 45 books, and has been a full-time journalist since 1968. While still based in London, Dan Wooding was a senior reporter for two of Great Britain’s largest-circulation newspapers, and was an interviewer for BBC Radio One and also for LBC, the capital city’s main commercial talk station. Dan now has a weekly radio show and two TV shows all based in Southern California.
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