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Christians, Muslims fight to the death in besieged Central African Republic town

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/21/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Muslims in village of Boda face certain death at hands of armed insurgents

The village of Boda in the Central African Republic stands as stark testimony to the anarchy that has gripped one of the African continent's poorest nations. Christians and Islamist Muslims have clashed violently since late 2012, when a battle for political power forced an estimated one million people from their homes.

The presence of the French military in Boda is everywhere evident. Flags hang from some shacks and a handful of French armored vehicles sporadically patrol the town.

The presence of the French military in Boda is everywhere evident. Flags hang from some shacks and a handful of French armored vehicles sporadically patrol the town.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
4/21/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Africa

Keywords: Boda, Central African republic, violence, Muslims, Christians


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - If Muslim villagers stray beyond either bridge, they risk being killed. Thousands of others have fallen victim in retaliatory violence. French and African peacekeepers here have failed to quell the unrest.The complicated situation has place Christians and Muslims in fear.

At one time, the rickety wooden bridges at each end of Boda opened to shops and markets in the diamond-mining town. The bridges today represent the lines which Muslims, living under siege, dare not cross. Encircled by Christian "anti-balaka" militia fighters, who are apparently bent on chasing out the country's Islamic population, the Muslims here live in fear of their lives.

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The presence of the French military is everywhere evident. Flags hang from some shacks and a handful of French armored vehicles sporadically patrol the town, 70 miles west of the capital Bangui. In the Muslim neighborhood, a banner praises French troops, in acknowledgement that that their plight would have been far worse without the deployment.

The crisis abruptly ended a proud history of Muslims living in harmony alongside the majority Christian population and has prompted warnings of genocide in the former French colony.

"We can wait for 10 years for them to leave - and if they don't leave, we will still be there, holding our positions," Captain Dopani Firmin, the "anti-balaka" chief in Boda, dressed casually in a red Paris St. Germain football shirt.

"We cannot accept to live together with Muslims, long-term," Firmin said. "It's our right to kill Muslims."

Of course, that sentiment is rooted in the struggle of the hour and is not reflective of all Christians. History reveals that Muslims and Christians once lived together in peace.

In nearby Banqui, virtually all Muslims have fled. Ever since Seleka, who seized power in March 2013, was forced to step aside in January, there has been a ritual "cleansing" of Muslims from the country's west.

The United Nations Security Council this month authorized a 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission to be deployed in September, recognition that 6,000 peacekeepers from the African peacekeeping force (MISCA) and France's 2,000-strong Sangaris force had failed to stamp their authority on the country.

The assaults on Muslims in Boda and elsewhere are taking a heavy toll.

"While we await the deployment on Sept. 15, it is essential that we reinforce MISCA and Sangaris, whose numbers are insufficient to stabilize this country," Abdou Dieng, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in CAR, told a news conference.

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