Two recent pieces of news concerning Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR) received less attention this week. Firstly, at least twenty people have been killed and several others injured in an attack by mostly Christian militias, known as anti-balaka, in the town of Bambari.
Secondly, it was reported that hundreds of displaced Muslims living in western territories of the country are trapped in enclaves in appalling situations, while the government and the United Nations are preventing them from leaving. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), these Muslims face a limited option: flee and encounter possible attack from anti-balaka militias, or remain and die from hunger and disease. The HRW also claimed that under the current situation, the regime's policy of no evacuations is inexcusable.
Although largely ignored by mainstream press, these two developments provide strong indications about the current situation of Muslims in CAR.
The suppression of Muslims in CAR has been going on since late last year. The unrelenting killing with firearms and machetes has been taking place with impunity since then and worsened further with the resignation of the country's first Muslim president, Michel Djotodia, in early this year.
There have been myriad reports of anti-Muslim militias out on killing sprees attacking and killing Muslims. Hatred, torture, and killings have become a horrific reality of their life. Over the past several months, anti-Muslim mobs have reportedly killed, slaughtered, and mutilated hundreds of Muslims, including children. In fact, the BBC reported that some of these children were slaughtered in front of their parents with machetes. A report by the Amnesty International also states that Muslim neighborhoods, towns, homes, and businesses have been frequently attacked by the anti-Muslim group.
The violence has also displaced many from their homes. Some have attempted to flee to neighboring countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, and Chad. But few of these countries have welcomed them with open arms. As a result, many of them are trapped in the enclaves, where they spend months living in arduous conditions with limited access to food, shelter, water, and medical assistance.
At the same time, a lot of the mainstream media has been mainly silent and the international community knows very little, if anything, about the situation.
The situation has also been exacerbated by the fact that the government, the African Union, and the United Nations have not only failed to offer sufficient protection for these people and have, instead, unwittingly contributed to the worsening condition of Muslim community by preventing the displaced people from fleeing overseas. Despite the presence of UN and French peacekeepers in the country, the situation has not been mitigated. In fact, as reported, these foreign troops often sit powerlessly by while anti-Muslim guerrillas rampage across the country, with the avowed objective of sweeping all Muslims out of the country, and killing them in the process.
It can no longer be denied now that the brutal suppression against Muslims in CAR must end soon. It is more than obvious that these people are in dire need of serious and genuine efforts by both the CAR government and the international community to alleviate their deteriorating condition.
More voices must join those speaking out in support of their rights. At the same time, the UN and other humanitarian organisations must accelerate the supply of aid to Muslim communities under oppression across CAR.
It is hard to see when all of this is going to end, but one thing has to be made clear: If all of us remain silent, we will eventually have to pay a heavy price.