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Central African Republic: Muslim Communities Emptied
Human Rights Watch
7 March 2014
 
Muslim residents of the Central African Republic have fled the country in droves in the face of persistent attacks by anti-balaka militias, Human Rights Watch said today after visiting numerous towns and villages in the northwestern part of the country. The presence of French and African Union peacekeepers in these areas has been insufficient to protect Muslim residents, who are being targeted by the anti-balaka in retaliation for horrific abuses committed by the predominantly Muslim Seleka group over the past year. 
 
The European Union and other concerned countries should immediately assist French and African Union forces trying to stabilize the country and halt the targeted anti-Muslim violence, Human Rights Watch said. The United Nations Security Council should urgently authorize a strong UN peacekeeping mission, as envisioned by the UN secretary-general, to protect civilians and provide the security necessary to rebuild the country, which has been devastated by massive human rights violations and a resulting humanitarian catastrophe.

“We are seeing entire Muslim communities that have lived in the Central African Republic for generations fleeing their homes,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “Muslims in the Central African Republic are contending with unendurable conditions and horrific violence, and the African and French forces there have not been able to protect these residents.”

Human Rights Watch today also released new satellite imagery documenting the vast destruction of homes by anti-balaka militia and, earlier, by the Seleka coalition, which took power in a coup in March 2013.

The anti-balaka militia comprise mostly Christian and animist residents who came together in September to avenge attacks on Christians by the Seleka. French and African Union troops, deployed in December to halt Seleka violence, found instead a situation where the anti-balaka were exerting greater control, forcing the Seleka to retreat and regroup, and making Muslim residents more vulnerable to looting and pillaging.    

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“The humanitarian needs in the Central African Republic are dire, and if they are not addressed, they will contribute to further conflict,” Bouckaert said. “Donors should provide reconstruction assistance to those who have lost their homes, which could lessen the inter-communal tensions fueling the violence.”
 
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