[Mourners bury one of the 16 Muslims killed in the PK16 district of Bangui in the Central African Re public on December 11, 2013. (Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)]
By Elham Asaad Buaras
The sectarian bloodshed in the Central African Republic (CAR) took a grisly turn for the worse when two Muslim men were horrifically snatched from the streets of the capital lynched and set on fire by a baying Christian mob, their corpses were also eaten by a known cannibal on January 19. UN’s chief Special Adviser on Genocide Prevention, Adama Dieng, told the Security Council on January 22 CAR was at a “high risk of crimes against humanity and genocide.”
A cannibal by the name of Mad Dog was photographed eating the flesh of a slain Muslim for the second time in as many weeks – while French and African Union (AU) soldiers look on.
It’s unclear when they arrived. However, their inability to even clear streets after the attack is a damning indictment of their failure to subdue marauding Christian militias following the resignation of the country’s Muslim President.
Mad Dog – real name Ouandja Magloire – was photographed cutting and eating a man’s flesh and licking the bloodied knife. On January 13 the BBC reported how Magloire ate the leg of another dead Muslim man.
One of the men slaughtered was later identified as a local who lived in a Christian neighbourhood of Sango in the capital Bangui where he was killed. The other Muslim victim was dragged out of a taxi and lynched. Their bodies were then set alight and left to burn in front of foreign camera crews and the foreign troops.
Christian gangs told the media they will continue to seek and kill Muslims in revenge for the murder of a Christian.
The 3,200 AU soldiers in Bangui failed to protect over 400 Muslims killed in the capital last month and some 700 terrified Muslim refugees, mostly women and children, were forced to take refuge in a church on January 17.
Two days before the public lynching in Bangui a convoy carrying Muslim families fleeing to Cameroon was ambushed by armed Christians with automatic rifles and machetes in the remote north-west, outside the town of Bouar. Twenty-two Muslims including three children were slaughtered and survivors were left with serious gashes.
Spokesman for Save the Children, Mike McCusker, said doctors described gory scenes and harrowing accounts after gunmen fired a rocket grenade to halt a convoy of refugees and then attacked with firearms, machetes and clubs.
The attacks shows African and French peacekeepers are not reaching remote areas where violence goes unreported, said the Save the Children director, Robert Lankenau.
Nearly the entire population of Bouar, about 40,000, was taking refuge in mosques and churches.
Panicked Muslim residents were also fleeing, headed northwards for neighbouring Chad, a country unfamiliar to many of them.
Women in tears and terrified children scrambled to get aboard moving vehicles, some of them wounded by the Christian militias, formed in response to atrocities committed by armed Muslims.
Sadou Gambo, a widow with six children and no relatives in Chad, said Muslims were “being massacred here. I’ve suffered too much. I’m going.”
On January 20 the EU announced it will send up to 1,000 soldiers to help stabilise the former French colony.
It is unclear which EU countries will contribute troops. Estonia has promised soldiers, and Lithuania, Slovenia, Finland, Belgium, Poland and Sweden are among countries considering sending troops, diplomats say.
Large EU countries such as Britain, Germany and Italy have said they will not send ground troops.
The EU announcement arrived on the same day the Mayor of Bangui, Catherine Samba-Panza, was named interim President and a week after rebel leader Michel Djotodia quit the post on January 10.
Djotodia became the first Muslim ruler of a majority Christian country after his rebel group Seleka overthrew the Francois Bozize Government in March last year.
Bozizé himself took power in a 2003 military coup and was fraudulently reelected, and his tenure was marked by conflict with numerous armed groups, forgotten health and education promises, war crimes, and the exclusion of certain groups from government positions.
Djotodia led the almost entirely Muslim Seleka rebel coalition in the December 2012 rebellion against Bozize. Following a peace agreement, Djotodia was appointed to the Government as First Deputy Prime Minister for National Defense in February 2013. When the peace agreement unraveled, Seleka captured Bangui.
Djotodia officially disbanded the rebel group after he seized power but some former rebels went rogue and launched a campaign of killing, raping and looting, prompting some Christian communities to form vigilante militias.
The conflict took on a sectarian overtone in a country where the minority Muslim (15%) and Christians (50%) have lived together for generations, and a Christian militia opposed to Djotodia’s Government launched an attempted coup in early December.
In the days that followed, angry Christian youths set mosques on fire and mobs stoned to death people suspected of supporting Djotodia.
Horrific orchestrated attacks on Muslims in Bouca, Bossangoa and Bozoum escalated last month.
27 Muslims were slaughtered in Bohong, a village about 47 miles from the far western town of Bouar. Twelve others including a pregnant woman who was disemboweled and 10 children were slashed with machetes were killed around 95km north of the capital.
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, more than 1,000 people have died since December alone and nearly 1 million have been forced from their homes – 20 per cent of the population since a rebel leader backed by Muslim insurgents seized power last year.