Tens of thousands of Muslims are evacuating Central African Republic (CAR) from religious based persecution has Fatou Bensouda, the International Criminal Court (IIC) chief prosecutor, opening a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes. The Muslims are being targeted for supporting the now toppled Muslim rebel government that has had the blame for countless atrocities laid at its feet. Central African Republic is a predominantly Christian area, and it is believed that many were slain for not adhering to Muslim law.
In Bangui, the streets were filled with Christians who cheered at the Muslim convoy’s departure as they made their way to Chad, a Muslim country. A harsh transition for some whom had lived in good standing with their Christian neighbors for generations, some of the evacuating Muslims have no ties to Chad and nowhere to go once they arrive.
At times the crowd got out of control, hurling rocks and other objects at the convoy. One witness said they saw a man fall from an overcrowded truck and he was brutally slain when he landed in the hands of the angry Christian mob. Chadian Special Forces did accompany the convoy for protection but they were outnumbered and could only offer so much protection.
The Central African Republic is one of Africa’s poorest nations and has been in unrest for over a year after Muslim rebels took control. However, now that they have been ousted, the Christian residents are focusing their anger and seeking vengeance on any Muslim in CAR, forcing them to evacuate the region. They are committing acts of random beatings and even forming lynch mobs. These atrocities have attracted the eye of the International Criminal Court now investigating the issue as a war crime.
The Christians gathered in the streets are calling for the Muslims to “go back where they came from” and many Muslims in the region are heeding that call. One fleeing Muslim, Osmani Benui, says she can’t stay because they have no protection if they did choose to remain. Doctors Without Borders, an aid group that has strong ties to the region, says that tens of thousands of Muslims have now left CAR for neighboring Chad and Cameroon. The UN says that about 9,000 people have fled to Cameroon in just the past ten days. This brings the total Muslim refugee number to 22,000 since the situation began.
Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch, says the situation is “horrific” all over CAR and that entire Muslim neighborhoods have been destroyed and looted. Bouckaert himself has helped free trapped Muslims and gotten them to safety. He says that the Muslim buildings are being taken apart “brick by brick” to eradicate any sign of their existence.
Elsewhere in CAR, there are still Muslims trapped who can’t escape, especially in the Northwest region. A whole community of 8,000 is essentially imprisoned and unable to escape the ongoing violence. The UN and Doctors Without Borders are very concerned for the wellbeing and safety of these trapped Muslims.
Many more Muslims are expected to evacuate the Central African Republic in the following days and has this happens the opportunity for more horrific acts of violence against them remains open. The International Criminal Court opening a war crime investigation is just the first step in adding stability to the region.
By Adam Stier