Amnesty researchers found Muslim neighbourhoods in town of Boali empty
The new interim president of the Central African Republic must urgently rein in militias currently forcing scores of people from Muslim communities to leave the country in a bid to escape terrifying abuse, Amnesty International said.
The call on Catherine Samba Panza, who was appointed by the country’s interim parliament as interim president of the Central African Republic today, came amid fresh reports of attacks on Muslim communities in towns and villages outside the capital Bangui.
Over the past ten days, hundreds of Muslims have reportedly been victims of attacks, including unlawful killings, with many being forced to leave their homes. Yesterday, Amnesty researchers visited the town of Boali, north of Bangui, and found that the town’s Muslim neighbourhoods were empty. Most of the Muslim community had fled Boali the previous week after an “anti-balaka” militia attack that took place on Friday, in which five Muslims were killed.
Those left behind, up to 850 people, are taking refuge in a local church that was protected by French and African Union peacekeepers. All those interviewed by Amnesty said they wanted to leave the town to seek safety outside of the Central African Republic, believing that it would not be safe for them to stay.
People from Muslim communities are also reported to have fled in large numbers from the towns of Bossembele, Yakole and Boyali, as well as many smaller villages and numerous neighbourhoods around Bangui. Thousands are regrouping on the outskirts of Bangui in a traditionally Muslim neighbourhood in the PK12 area. Some are organising convoys to flee to Chad and Cameroon, while others have gathered around the mosque awaiting the opportunity to escape to safety. Some convoys have faced ambush by anti-balaka militia while attempting to leave the country. Last Friday, 22 civilians, including three children, were killed outside the town of Bouar when their vehicle was attacked. Many of the victims were hacked to death with machetes.
Joanne Mariner, Senior Crisis Adviser at Amnesty International who is currently in the Central African Republic, said:
“People from Muslim communities feel totally unprotected from anti-balaka attacks and terrified about what might happen to them if they stay in the country.
“Even those who were born in the Central African Republic and have never set foot outside of the country are now trying to escape to Chad.
“Reining in the anti-balaka militia and ensuring the Muslim population is safe from attack must be a top priority for interim president Catherine Samba Panza.
“The atrocities carried out by the ex-Seleka can in no way justify the brutal attacks we’re seeing now. The new government must act immediately to ensure that everyone in CAR, Christians and Muslims, enjoy basic security.”
Approximately 1,000 people, mostly from the Christian community, were killed in early December by the ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka forces. However, since the deployment of French forces on 6 December and the subsequent deployment of additional peacekeeping forces as well as the resignation of former interim President Michel Djotodia on 10 January, the ex-Seleka have lost power rapidly. Many ex-Seleka forces have reportedly left the towns and villages they previously controlled. On the surface, with the ex-Seleka’s loss of power, the security situation in most of the country appears to be improving. In Bangui, shops and markets have re-opened and in the countryside, many displaced people from the Christian community are returning to their villages after spending weeks or even months hiding in the bush.