CAR Muslims Risk Ethnic Cleansing: What if Thousands of Christians were forced out of a Muslim Country?

(By Juan Cole)

The Central African Republic has a population of 4.5 million, about 15 percent of them Muslim, or about 670,000 people. Those Muslims are now, according to Amnesty International, in serious danger of being ethnically cleansed.

“The group [Amnesty Interntional] said attacks against Muslims had been committed “with the stated intent to forcibly displace these communities from the country,” with many anti-balaka fighters viewing Muslims as “‘foreigners’ who should leave the country or be killed”.

The rights group also said that the attacks against Muslims were committed with the government intending to forcibly displace the Muslims from the country.

To escape the anti-balaka’s deadly attacks, the entire Muslim populace has fled from numerous towns and villages while in others, the few who remain have taken refuge in and around churches and mosques.” “

In a scene out of World War II, a long convoy of Muslims tried on Friday to flee the capital Bangui, meeting with lines of taunting Christians who shouted “We’re going to kill you all.” But to get out of the capital they had to try to go through dangerous Christian neighborhoods, and UN peacekeepers decided to turn them back to a mosque where they could shelter instead.

The tens of thousands of Muslims who have already fled are in a situation of ethnic cleansing according to the UN. (Since there are about 670,000 Muslims in the country, if 67,000 fled abroad, that would be 10 percent).

Christian militias in Bangui say they were originally formed and took up arms to fight off the disproportionately Muslim Seleka (Coalition) rebels who joined in attempts to dislodge the now-overthrown leader of the country Francois Bozizé. The militias have, however, gone well beyond self-defense to active attacks on non-combatant Muslim populations.

Muslims maintain that French and other peacekeepers of Christian background have been reluctant to disarm the Christian militias, concentrating on getting arms away from Muslims and so leaving the latter vulnerable. The Christians call Muslims “balaka,” referring to the machetes wielded by some members of the Seleka (Coalition) Movement.

For tens of thousands of innocent people to be forced out of their country, and for hundreds of thousands to face the same fate in the near term, is a major crisis. You can only imagine the screaming headlines if CAR were a Muslim-majority country and those being ethnically cleansed were Christian. While the situation has been covered in the Western press, it hasn’t received the attention it would have in the former situation.


related video:

VOA reports, “Muslims Under Threat in CAR”

12 Responses

  1. It is ironic that these horrible crimes of ethnic cleansing, by murders and attacks on poor, unarmed, civilians, go unnoticed in the world, especially in the US? By the reports on the media, it seems the world is only full of Muslim jihadists, yet these brutal attacks on Muslims in CAR and even Myanmar, by the majority in those countries, keep going on, and no one seems to be doing anything to stop it. A new article in Juan Cole shows Americans do not have favorable opinions about Muslims, which explains why they are indifferent to what is going on, even when it comes to the Palestinians. After all, aren’t they “ALL” terrorists?

    • “It is ironic that these horrible crimes of ethnic cleansing, by murders and attacks on poor, unarmed, civilians, go unnoticed in the world, especially in the US?”

      Especially in the US? What evidence do you have that leads you to conclude the U.S. is more indifferent to ethnic cleansing than other countries in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere?

      “A new article in Juan Cole shows Americans do not have favorable opinions about Muslims, which explains why they are indifferent to what is going on.”

      Is that the explanation? Then how do you account for the United States putting a stop to the killings and ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia via the Dayton Accords in 1995? Or the U.S.-led NATO war against Serbia over the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Kosovo in 1999?

      • The international community, including the US, did take their own sweet time to intervene, when they did, thousands of Muslims had already been massacred.
        From the Brookings Institute:
        “For over four years following the breakup of Yugoslavia and the onset of war, first in Croatia and then in Bosnia, the United States refused to take the lead in trying to end the violence and conflict. While many have written eloquently and passionately to explain Washington’s—and the West’s—failure to stop the ethnic cleansing, the concentration camps, and the massacres of hundreds of thousands of civilians, few have examined why, in the summer of 1995, the United States finally did take on a leadership role to end the war in Bosnia.”

        I am not specifically saying the US is the only nation that is indifferent to ethnic cleansing…right now there are a few nations where Muslims are ethnically being cleansed, and everyone seems to be slow in doing something about it. It seems there is no sense of urgency to do anything about it. How many must die before something is finally done to help? As I stated, ethnic cleansing, by any group against minorities MUST be dealt with promptly and severely. I don’t mean only against Muslims either.

  2. Hey Juan:

    On an entirely unrelated subject, whatever happened to Moktada al-Sadr in Iraq? What are his group up to in the current situation?

  3. Our press, politicians and churches have largely ignored the persecution and exodus of Christians from Muslim countries. Or haven’t you noticed?

    • It has been noticed of course…and persecution of any minority by the majority religion, is deplorable. Are the politicians and churches not doing enough about it, and using their clout in trying to bring world attention to this? Yes. At least the Christians have influential leaders, both religious and political, who can do something about it, whereas the Muslims having no hierarchy, have no credible leader strong enough to bring attention and actions in nations like Myanmar, CAR etc., and as stated before, no one really cares.

  4. Our media’s inattention to central Africa where in the past six months civil unrest in CAR, South Sudan and Katanga province in the DRC has displaced upwards of two and one half million people demonstrates yet again the lethal invisibility of black Africans and the invincible ignorance of the so-called first world.

  5. Have to agree with Grumpy Old Man. Persecution of Christians has been and is now happening in the Middle East. Some of the oldest communities in the history of Christianity are being destroyed.

    link to

    Ethnic cleansing and persecution of any group is intolerable.

    • What would really help would be for the US to take an active stand against the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the CAR. Remember how apathetic we were when Muslims were being persecuted in Bosnia, and how this was used to whip up anti-US fervor?

      • Even more than the United States, it was the Europeans who did nothing during the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia, and it was happening in the Europe’s backyard. And don’t forget it was a Dutch commander of United Nations forces who stood by and did nothing as 7,000 Muslims were slaughtered in Srebrenica.

        It was, in fact, the American diplomat Richard Holbrooke who hammered out the Dayton Accords that ended the fighting. The U.S. was slow to get involved, but did more to end the slaughter and ethnic cleansing than anyone else.

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