News / Africa

CAR President Vows Protection for Muslims

Parliamentary-elected interim President of the Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza gives a speech to residents and members of the media at the monastery in Boy Rabe district in the capital Bangui, Feb. 1, 2014.
Parliamentary-elected interim President of the Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza gives a speech to residents and members of the media at the monastery in Boy Rabe district in the capital Bangui, Feb. 1, 2014.
Nick Long
The new president of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza, has promised that starting next week, the country’s security forces will be re-organized to protect Muslims as well as Christians.

The interim president made the announcement Saturday at several sites for displaced people including the central mosque in Bangui, where hundreds of Muslims have taken refuge from the violence in their part of the city.

Muslims are a minority of the CAR’s population, perhaps about 15 percent. Since last year when a largely Muslim rebel group, the Seleka, seized power, and then gradually lost power, the fellow Muslims have been in increasing danger.

Her visit to a mosque on Saturday was the first time that Samba-Panza, who is a Christian, has met a large Muslim crowd since she was elected president last month. It marked an important test of her appeal to Muslims.

The visit was nearly called off in the morning when an anti-Muslim gang burned a house near the mosque and tried to lynch a Muslim, but the president finally arrived there with a heavily armed escort of Rwandan peacekeepers.

Unlike at the other sites the president had visited, there was no cheering as she shook hands with waiting dignitaries, but she managed to break the ice with a unifying address partly in Arabic, the only language many Muslims here understand.

She told the crowd she deplores the fact that many people who have lived in the Central African Republic a long time have now been forced to flee to Chad or to the northeast of the country. This is against the principles on which the nation was built, she says, as expressed in its motto - Unity, Dignity and Work.

Tens of thousands of CAR’s Muslim population have been forced into exile or forced to return to their home countries, while in Bangui and across the west of the CAR frightened communities are under attack by the so-called anti-Balaka militia. Many are anxiously waiting for trucks to get through that might yet take them to safety.

The Chadian government has taken a lead in evacuating Muslims from the CAR - aid agencies are reluctant to organize wholesale departures because it could be seen as facilitating ethnic cleansing.

Security forces in the CAR were routed by Seleka rebels last year and, only recently, have begun to reassemble.

Samba Panza reiterated her call for militias to lay down their arms, but had a conciliatory message for some militia members.

"Not all the Seleka militia are bandits," she said, "and not all the anti-Balaka militia are bandits either, but they must guard against being manipulated."

She added that starting Monday the security forces - army, police and gendarmerie - will be rearmed so that they can protect the whole population, in collaboration with international peacekeepers.

Meanwhile African Union and French peacekeepers have re-established their presence at the town of Sibut, 150 kilometers north of Bangui, where hundreds of Seleka fighters had set up a base. It is not clear whether the Seleka have left the town, but it seems they did not take on the international forces.

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Comment Sorting
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
February 02, 2014 12:46 PM
In islamic countries of the world, non-adherents to islam have no rights to live. They are treated worse than animals in the farms, much less than the pet animals. In a country like Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia etc, the life of humans who do not practice islam is worth below a chick, a duck that if a muslim kills one, the muslim just pays a little damage to the [owner] of the person killed, or goes to jail for a minimum jail term - sometimes 26 days only. The non-adherent has no right to job, employment or amenities; they have partial voting right - to vote but cannot be voted for. Here in Central Africa Republic, a little taste of their own cookies is served them and the world gathers to denounce it. If it is wrong to kill a muslim in CAR, it is also a criminal offense to deny rights of other citizens in predominantly muslim countries of the Middle East, Asia and North Africa where the practice of dehumanizing citizens because they do not practice islam is the order of the day. If it is wrong to kill a muslim in CAR, it is wrong to kill a Christian in Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Bahrain, Qatar etc., where you are not even allowed to visit with your copy of the Christian Holy Book, the bible. If the world is talking about the wrong to denial of human rights of muslims - just in CAR - the world should speak out about the mega denial of fundamental human rights of citizens of so-called islamic countries too. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

by: Anonymous
February 02, 2014 1:49 AM
Pres.Carthrine should please try to bring this conflicts to an end so that their country should move forward .Also she should arrest ring leader of the Barstard antibalaka militias not they are Brothers and Sister in Christianity 'no side rule the country.

by: Kamara Mohammed M. from: Monrovia,Liberia
February 01, 2014 3:33 PM
Pls African brothers & sisters, let us live together as one,we all are one family ,living in one world,having same the value as human,if we don't live together hamonsiouly,it means that we will perrish as flood.
In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
February 02, 2014 1:06 PM
It is good to make this call when muslims are at the receiving end. It will have more serious meaning when we hear it from the Middle East and Asia where islam is holding sway; it should sound out in Nigeria where muslim militants are killing people in scores daily; it should be heard in the Middle East where muslim terrorists want to eliminate every trace of civilization and things that are not islamic. Let this voice that wants peace in CAR and Africa say so to the muslims concerning Israel. Then and only then can I know that muslims also love peace. Not just now because muslims are being killed. It is when they think before they act if a child draws a cartoon in the internet and name it one of muslims specials. It is good to hear peace, but let some muslim condemn some of the outrageous islamist forays like (suicide) bombings here and there in neighborhoods that are not islamic.

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