Central African Republic: Violence escalates – At least 16 dead in attacks on a church and a mosque

A call for a new security concept – UN peacekeeping mission is unable to cope (Press Release)

UN peacekeepers fail to provide safety for civilans in the CA Repulic. Photo: Un Photo via Flickr

According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), the civilian population of the Central African Republic is in need of more effective protection from a new wave of violence. “The UN peacekeeping mission Minusca appears to be unable to create lasting peace – even in the capital, Bangui. In order to keep the country from sliding into a new civil war, there has to be a new security concept,” explained Ulrich Delius, the STP’s director, in Göttingen on Wednesday.

At least 16 people got killed on May 1, and 99 people were injured when – following a shootout between militiamen and riot police – the rebel group attacked the Catholic Church of Notre-Dame of Fatima in Bangui. The had been was crowded at that time, as several hundred believers were there to commemorate Saint Joseph. Several members of the community were killed, including the Catholic priest Albert Tonugoumalé-Baba. Wounded believers then brought the priest’s body to the president’s palace. On their way, they set fire to a mosque – burning two Muslims alive. Later, the security forces broke up the demonstration.

“There is a new escalation of violence between Christians and Muslims in the Central African Republic, even though the conflict is not primarily based on religious issues. However, the militias are instrumentalizing religion as a means to present themselves as Christian or Muslim fighters. All the parties in the struggle for power and access to the lucrative diamond mines are instrumentalizing religious matters,” Delius criticized.

For years, leading Catholic clerics and Muslim imams have been trying to promote peace and understanding between the religious communities – and to work against the notion that the violence, which has been escalating since 2013, is based on a religious war. The Christian cleric who was killed on Monday had actively promoted a peaceful coexistence with the Muslims. He had been committed to a non-aggression pact according to which Muslims in the area should be able to live in peace and quiet as long as they agreed to bury their dead.

Header Photo: UN Photo via Flickr