Culture Ethics Politics

Violence against Muslims soars in Central African Republic

Sheikh Saliou Mbacke, a Senegalese Muslim leaders who coordinates the Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

(RNS) African religious leaders are appealing for an end to violence against Muslims in the Central African Republic as thousands flee to neighboring Chad and Cameroon.

In recent weeks, a pro-Christian militia known as anti-Balaka (or anti-machete) has killed and mutilated Muslims as they have tried to leave the capital Bangui by the truckload.

Muslims had enjoyed some protection when Michel Djotodia, the country’s first interim Muslim president, was in power. Djotodia resigned under pressure in January and Catherine Samba-Panza was appointed the interim president.

Sheikh Saliou Mbacke, a Senegalese Muslim leaders who coordinates the Interfaith Action for Peace in Africa. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

Sheikh Saliou Mbacke, a Senegalese Muslim leaders who coordinates the Inter-faith Action for Peace in Africa. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

Earlier, Djotodia’s Seleka Islamist coalition faced accusations of atrocities against Christians. His departure did not stop revenge attacks.

“We are horrified by these killings in the Central African Republic,” said Sheikh Saliou Mbacke, the coordinator of Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa. “We appeal to both groups to cease the attacks and live side by side as they have done for many years.”

Mbacke, a Muslim leader from the Muridiya Sufi community of Senegal, said it was disturbing that the violence threatens to expel all Muslims from CAR.

“This is clearly manipulation of religion for some political gains, which must be rejected in Africa,” he said.

With the escalating violence, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the plight of civilians in CAR has gone from bad to worse since September 2012. Bensouda announced preliminary investigations by the court based at The Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity. She said the victims had been deliberately targeted on religious grounds.

The international community must move quickly to find an immediate solution to the violence, or it may become too late, said Sheikh Hamid Byamugenzi, a religious studies lecturer at Uganda’s Islamic University.

“I know Muslims in other countries are pronouncing jihad on behalf of their Muslim brothers being massacred in Central Africa. If this is not stopped now, it will spread religious hate and tension across Africa. It will (result in) counterattacks that will be difficult to stop,” he observed.

According to Archbishop Nestor Desire Nongo-Aziagbia of Bossangoa, disarming the militia groups has been the biggest challenge. The fighters have failed to surrender the arms, despite an ongoing disarmament program.

Muslims make up 15 percent of CAR’s population. Christians comprise 50 percent; the rest are of various native faiths. More than 800,000 people have been displaced in the fighting. According to the United Nations, more than 2,000 have been killed there since March.


About the author

Fredrick Nzwili

Fredrick Nzwili is a journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya. For more than 15 years, he has written about religion, politics, peace and conflict, development, security, environment and wildlife. His articles have appeared in international media organizations among others; The Tablet, The Christian Science Monitor, The National Geographic and Kenyan local newspapers; The Standard and the People Daily.


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  • The atrocities in the Central African Republic must be stopped. Did Mr. Nzwili also write an article when the Muslims were/are brutally killing Christians in CAR?

  • Gerri Michalska,

    Here’s the problem, “pro-Christian militia.”
    The world has been full of these for centuries.

    “And as for these enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be their king–bring them in and EXECUTE THEM right here in front of me.'”
    – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    [from the “Parable of the 12 Minas”, perhaps the most dangerous words in the Bible]

  • This tragedy can only be stopped by people who are willing to abandon the religious commands which accompany their Holy Books:

    “Slay them wherever you find them…Idolatry is worse than carnage…Fight against them until idolatry is no more and Allah’s religion reigns supreme.” (Surah 2:190-)

    Needless ancient nonsense.

  • Gerri, If you have followed my coverage here, you find that I have brought out the conflict in CAR as it is, without favoring one side. Remember how Seleka rampage through villages attacking Christians and churches? That is in record through my stories.

  • Jerri, Just what are you talking about? Islam since its inception has been and will always be the aggressor. They unprovokedly entered Spain to conquer in 711 and were defeated by Charles Martel in Poitiers. You need to read history.

  • Let’s have some good, thorough coverage on the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East from time immemorial to the present.
    Let’s talk about the mall, Israeli owned, that was stormed in Africa and only those let go who could prove they were Islamic. The rest were cold-bloodedly murdered. Do you remember?

  • Religion = Persecution

    I don’t know how much clearer this can be.
    If people abandoned religion we might get rid of this problem.

    Abandoning religion wouldn’t guarantee a perfect world, but at least we wouldn’t be wiping each other out over various versions of the invisible nothings.

  • ” An eye for an eye, one day we wake up all blind”. What is this all about killing and shading blood of the innocent. Now, if muslims brother retaliate the world will stand against muslims saying this word ‘Terrorisms’ and this massacre is what, for what reason. The religion wil continue even if day kill all muslims in this world.

  • You need to study the history of the twentieth century which saw up to 100 million people killed in the name of atheist regimes. The death toll of the Second World War, which was certainly not religiously motivated was around 50 million.

  • Human violence is older than Christ or Muhammad or Abraham. How do you account for killing, and acts of revenge among individuals, families and tribes before the advent of “religion”?
    (I read the Associated Press article about kids fleeing the violence in CAR and was moved by their bravery. Have been following links for news.)

  • “First of all, if you notice the disciples were not a military group. They were not equipped to make war or fight. Neither did they carry out this alleged command of Christ, did you ever wondered why? It is because Jesus did not direct them to do so, because he was reciting not his words but the words of a character in his Parable of the Pounds. The disciples knew that Jesus was just telling a story, not giving a command to be followed.”