West & Central Africa

Catholic priest ‘hacked to death’ by Islamists in CAR

We will “do things” you won’t forget “for many generations” Muslim rebels tell Christians

Father Louis, a catholic priest was hacked to death earlier this month by Islamic ex-Séléka rebels at his farm in a village near the south-eastern town of Zemio, in the Central African Republic. Zambaguia village, south-eastern town of Zemio, The very next day, 3 September, Father Robert Wieczorek a Polish missionary, who has spent 20 years providing support for people in need in the region was kidnapped by ex-Séléka Islamists and was kidnapped and tortured when the militia attacked his parish in the north-western town of Ndim.

These events highlight the tragedy unfolding in the country where rape, torture and deaths have become daily occurrences despite the presence of the United Nations peace keeping forces in the region. The UN forces have been accused of complicityin the ongoing mayhem.

An Amnesty International report said, “Communities living in Basse-Kotto have been left at the mercy of the UPC. Women have been raped, men murdered, villages destroyed, and the region’s UN peacekeeping force has proved ineffective in stemming these abuses,” said Joanne Mariner, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International.

“Civilians are not accidental victims in this conflict; they are direct targets. If the UN’s mandate in the Central African Republic is to mean anything, civilians must be better protected,” according to the report.

Annie, 36, narrated how the Islamic UPC fighters, on 10 May, raped her and killed her husband in Alindao.

“‘We’re going to do something to you Christians that won’t be forgotten for many generations,’” she said the men told them, before one fighter raped her and another fighter raped her husband.

She recounted, “After raping my husband, he shot him in the head.” This took place in front of her five children.

Of the 25 women Amnesty International interviewed, 20 had been raped and nearly all had seen their adult male relatives killed.

A 28 year old widow lost her husband, her father and her five-year-old son. “After three of them raped me I lost consciousness. When I came to, I was attached to a tree,” she told Amnesty International. “My mother untied me and we fled. I was hysterical.”

“The UPC’s use of rape as a weapon of war, and as a means of violently humiliating and degrading its victims, appears to be systematic,” said Balkissa Ide Siddo, Amnesty International’s Central Africa Researcher.

The head of the UN Office for humanitarian affairs in CAR, Najat Rochdi on Twitter, 6 September, said, “The murder of the Catholic priest in Zemio is a cowardly and abject crime. I strongly condemn it,”

The Mouvement Patriotique pour la Centrafrique (MPC), (Central African Patriotic Movement) an Islamic Séléka members, through its leader, Mohamedi Bahar, denied any involvement in the attacks.

In a series of messages on Facebook, Fr Zembi and Fr Kpangou, from the town of Zemio expressed their outrage at UN peacekeepers stationed in the town for “deliberately abandoning” his town and leaving parishioners to be murdered by rebels. “You were warned, but you deliberately decided to abandon this town,” he wrote.

He added: “This community is being sacrificed, and I will hold you responsible for all those dead and preparing to die.”

“If you don’t come soon to disarm these people, we will have to organise confessions and a final Mass and viaticum [giving Communion to and anointing someone before death] and prepare ourselves and the rest of the displaced people here for the worst,” Kpangou told UN forces on Facebook.

UN Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said, “We do protect thousands of them again in different locations in Central African Republic. We really not only protect them physically from those who want to go after them, but we help them get humanitarian assistance even though this is becoming quite challenging in many areas.”

“We are seeing a surge in very negative messages, very negative antagonistic rhetoric to the effect that ‘foreigners should be eliminated.’ Sort of putting one ethnic component or religious component of this country against the other and this is very worrying and serious.”

The UN undersecretary called on all those in positions of influence in the Central African Republic to counter those messages.

 

Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos.

Image Credits: Google Images/Catholic Compound hosting Muslims/Seleka fighters