Africa: Muslims take refuge in church with growing Anti-balaka violence

Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR): With a rise in Anti-balaka (a Christian terrorist organisation), violence in a Muslim dominated area Tokoyo, at least 1,500 Muslims had fled and taken refuge in a Catholic church in the country’s south-east.

The violence erupted on May 13-17 when Anti-balaka launched a series of attacks on Muslims in Tokoyo, a Muslim district of Bangassou.

“The situation is not safe enough to leave, and so they cannot move from here,” said Father Alain Blaise Bissialo, the priest at the church. “There are men who walk around town with guns,” he said.

They had previously taken refuge in a mosque, but it was also attacked and resulted in the death of the imam of the mosque.

“At last count, 150 people were killed during the violence since mid-May, but this number could rise,” Antoine Mbao Bogo, president of the local branch of the Red Cross, told Al Jazeera on Friday.

“It’s hard for us, we have to stay in the same place, we cannot move, and we are fasting,” says Alidou Djibril, a displaced person.

The condition of the Muslims is not good as they don’t have enough food and clothes. They can’t move freely and they have to stay at the same place. Bob Libenge, acting president of the local branch of the Red Cross, told that some people were sleeping inside the church and the rest were outside, on mats, within the complex.

Despite MINUSCA’s (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated
Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic) patrols, “the area is not safe enough and their homes and businesses have been destroyed, and so many have nowhere to go,” said Vladimir Montiero, MINUSCA spokesperson.

CAR has been afflicted with violence since Muslim-led Seleka fighters unseated the country’s president in a takeover in 2013. Following to which, vigilante militia called the Anti-balaka, made up of Christians and animists embarked on a mission to attack the Muslim community.

At least one in five Central Africans are currently displaced, the highest proportion since the height of the crisis in 2014. As per UN, more than 50 percent of CAR’s population requires humanitarian assistance.