News / Africa

CAR Crisis Opens Rift Between Muslims, Christians

Julienne Mbetidemo sits outside the remains of her home, burned by Seleka rebels, in the village of Ngangue, 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Mbres, Central African Republic, July 27, 2013.
Julienne Mbetidemo sits outside the remains of her home, burned by Seleka rebels, in the village of Ngangue, 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Mbres, Central African Republic, July 27, 2013.
Gabe Joselow
As the security situation in the Central African Republic continues to deteriorate, a new unsettling rivalry between Muslim and Christian communities has started to take hold.

Under the shade of a thatched roof, George Fakida and his workers are making knives from scrap metal at a small workshop in the Boeing neighborhood of Bangui.

He says business is going well these days, but a few weeks ago the shop was forced to shut down, when soldiers from the ruling rebel coalition Seleka raided the neighborhood, looking for fighters loyal to the former president.

Residents say the soldiers forced them to hand over televisions, telephones, money and other valuables. The United Nations says fighting in Boeing and other areas of the capital at the end of August killed 10 people and forced thousands to flee.

While the raids appeared to be politically motivated, Fakida believes it was all about religion.

“Almost all of us are Christians in Boeing,” he said, “and the majority of the rebels are Muslim and do not like Christian people. That’s why they came to our area to attack the people.”

Central African Republic is a majority Christian nation; about 10 percent of the population is Muslim.

In March, a rebel movement from mostly Muslim parts of the country overthrew the devoutly Christian president, Francois Bozize, and installed the country’s first Muslim leader, former diplomat Michel Djotodia.

While the country has been wracked by insecurity since independence from France in 1960, people here say religion had never been a factor until now.

Ndiaye Selehou, an imam at the Nour al Yaqin mosque in Bangui, says people have been preoccupied with the violence between the two communities since the rebellion.

“Since Seleka arrived everyone has been talking about Muslims killing Christians and vice versa,” he said. “But it is our wish that we just live in peace."

In an incident this weekend, community militia members loyal to former President Bozize attacked Seleka positions in the town of Bossangoa north of the capital.
The Christian community, the majority in Bossangoa, fled the town, possibly fearing Seleka reprisals.

In another incident in the nearby town of Bouca, Bozize supporters reportedly torched Muslim homes.

The government says up to 100 people have been killed in the violence, although exact numbers are difficult to confirm.

Seleka spokesman Guy Simplice Kodegue tells VOA the Muslim population of the country was long neglected by the former regime, and is still under attack by his supporters.

He says the divisive religious aspect of the conflict should prompt an international response.

“If there is a problem between the two communities, it should mobilize the international community to intervene quickly to reestablish security,” he said. “It is quite like Mali.”

The United Nations' office for CAR (BINUCA) says it is dispatching a team to Bossangoa to document human-rights violations in the area.

The U.N. special representative for the country, Babacar Gaye, tells VOA the office will support any initiative to help bring the communities back to a place of peace.

“My feeling is that the day we return to normalcy, it may take some time, but I’m sure that they will return in that regard to the previous situation," said Gaye.

The African Union has approved a new 3,600-soldier peacekeeping force for CAR, to augment the current peacekeeping mission known as MICOPAX.

Meantime, Seleka’s leaders have promised to push through a political transition that should see new elections within 18 months.

You May Like

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs