Militias in the Central African Republic (CAR) recently attacked, kidnapped and then raped a large group of women, according to a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) report, released on Thursday 8 March.
MSF said it treated 10 survivors of violence in February 17 near Kiriwiri, a village in the northwest of the country, two weeks after they had been attacked but feared venturing out to reach a hospital.
Many others who were raped simply remained behind fearing stigmatisation, the report said.
“Some were totally in shock, others paralysed by fear or unable to talk about the incident. Some of the women had open wounds caused by blades,” according to Soulemane Amoin, a midwife at the hospital in Bossangoa, the village where the women were treated. “It was terrible to see. It broke my heart.”
But that is not the only from militia men and women suffer rape and abuses from. The UN peace keepers and security operatives sent to protect them also exploit the vulnerable and the weak said Catholic Bishop Juan Aguirre Munoz of Bangassou said.
“Women are selling their bodies to the Blue Helmets out of desperation,” Bishop Munoz said.
“Many are doing this to avoid dying of hunger, and some of the abused are minors. When I asked their mothers what happened, they sank their heads.” Bishop Muoz has worked in CAR for 38 years and was appointed, in 2000, to Bangassou, a town south east of the country.
Bishop Juan Aguirre Munoz , speaking in an interview with Madrid’s Alfa y Omega, from Spain after an assassination attempt on his Vicar, said his cathedral already has over 2000 Muslims refugees in the seminary adjoining Bangassou’s Catholic cathedral.
“That some women, even girls, have been made pregnant by the UN soldiers is a crime against humanity,” said Bishop Munoz. “Countless international delegations have come and left the same day, because no one wants to stay here. Everyone has answered with silence and done nothing.”
The Bishop said generally, people of all ages had been “attacked with machetes, shot in cold blood or beheaded” during violence last May, by the Muslim militia called the Seleka and the native Anti-Balaka militia has been “erroneously called Christian,” he said.
Central African Republic plunged into a protracted war when Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew President Francois Bozize, a Christian, in 2013. Following the coup, Christian communities were attacked and hundreds of people killed with machetes. Rape became the weapon of war. The ‘Christian’ anti-Balaka (anti-machete) militias rose to counter the Muslim militia in a war that has been the deadliest in the region till date.
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos