Ethno-Religious Cleansing Plagues The Central African Republic

The winter months of 2013-2014 have so far brought alarming increases in violence among virtually every corner of the globe (two of which NYU Local has covered: Ukraine and Venezuela). Now, the international community has recently been forced to face the unsettling situation in the Central African Republic.

Last week, Amnesty International publicly recognized the evidence of ethnic cleansing of the CAR’s Muslim population by a radical Christian group called the “anti-Balaka.” A day before the warning from Amnesty International came, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, expressed concern over the increasingly “sectarian” violence in the CAR.

The United Nations has further categorized the violence as ethno-religious cleansing, but it is clear the conflict is much more complicated than a scuffle between the Muslim north and Christian south as the West would like to believe.

The conflict has been ongoing and worsening since 2012, but has only been recognized recently because of Amnesty International’s reports and the decisions announced on February 14, 2014 by France, the African Union, and the European Union to send troops to the CAR in an attempt to control the situation. The current CAR government announced on Monday that they would need the presence of French troops until the 2015 elections and the people of the CAR are actively seeking interference from organizations like the UN to stop the bloodshed.

The United Nations plans to send its largest delivery of food supplies yet, large enough to feed 150,000 people for a month. However, it is actually 1.3 million people who require food aid on a daily basis.

Various organizations have arranged systems of safely escorting Muslims to neighboring Cameroon, but the rescue operations are too often foiled by the anti-Balaka. This is a brutal display of violence, since the anti-Balaka themselves openly want the Muslims out of the CAR, but attack and murder them when they try to flee. The recent discovery of mass graves by foreign peacekeepers is another step towards the dire realization that the violence is only just unfolding.

Current political and religious clashes are the result of lingering animosity between the country’s two major religions, Christianity and Islam, after the 2004 Central African Republic Bush War. The war saw the rise of a new government led by Francois Bozize, who was seen as a corrupt leader and was ousted in a coup-d’etat led by the Muslim CAR radical group called Seleka last March.

As a result, the Muslim minority put Seleka leader Michel Djotodia in power as president and started targeting Christians by committing hate crimes. Discontent with being the targets, the Christian militia group “anti-Balaka” formed and began to strike back against the Seleka with determination to execute the Muslims of the CAR altogether.

Both sides are guilty of using terror methods, including public executions, child soldiers, rape, murder, and kidnapping. Both religious populations are fleeing the CAR in the thousands, seeking refuge in neighboring African countries. Analysts fear these faith-driven tactics are indicative of a conflict system influencing Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Cameroon, and now, the Central African Republic.

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