West & Central Africa

Killings are “early signs of a genocide” In Central African Republic, says UN

The Séléka Muslim militia in Central African Republic has killed over 30 people including six Red Cross staff at a health facility, when the Islamic militia attacked Gambo village about 30 miles from Bangassou.

The Séléka rebels also targeted the Catholic mission in the village. Bishop Juan-José Aguirre Muñoz, Bishop in the Central African Republic, said the death toll will be about 50 people killed. Describing the attack, he said the Muslim rebel group “cut the throats of several men and children.”

Antoine Mbao-Bogo, President of the Central African Red Cross said, “We are appalled by the news of the death of our fellow volunteers,” and called “on all parties to take steps to spare the civilian population, and to respect all humanitarian workers.”

Souleymane Daouda, a spokesman of the Ali Darassa faction of the Muslim rebels, denied his fighters were involved in the massacre.
“A thousand people attacked the town of Gambo,” Daouda said. “As our elements were there, they reacted by evacuating the civilian population first and then, on their return, they used arrows to defeat these armed bandits who massacred the population.”

Bishop Aguirre however pointed out that the Muslim militia had prevented his Cathedral in Bangassou from celebrating Mass for three weeks.

“The young Muslims do not want to listen to anybody and look for fighting: they sit in front of the Cathedral, preventing anybody’s passing,” he said. “For three Sundays we have been unable to open the cathedral.” The bishop expressed his fears that the 2000 Muslims currently being protected by the Catholic Church could face reprisals due to this recent killing.
Although some 12,000 UN peacekeepers are based in the Central African Republic communities like Gambo have no security and there was no security presence during the attack last week.

Pope Francis has called the attack “shameful” and called for an end to “all hate and violence”. He added: “I hope all forms of hate and violence will cease and such shameful crimes in places of worship, where the faithful are gathered to pray, will not be repeated,” he added.

Weeks of fighting between armed Christian and Muslim militia in Ngaoundaye, Batangafo villages in the north, and Kaga-Bandoro in the centre as well as Alindao and Gambo to the south, have seen the deaths of over 60 people according to witnesses.

The United Nations has raised the alarm that the massacres in the central African republic are “early signs of a genocide.”

 

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

Image Credit: ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images/www.worldwatchmonitor