The Muslims of the Central African Republic Face a Deadly Purge

The anti-balaka have outgrown their name. These militias in the Central African Republic, once united under a moniker meaning “anti-machete” in the local Sango language, are exacting their own vicious revenge upon the mainly Muslim rebels who overthrew the government last March and waged months of terror against the Christian population. They are now accused of atrocities far worse than what first prompted them to take up arms. An Amnesty International report on Feb. 12 said attacks on Muslims in January by anti-balaka militias, made up of Christians and animists, had amounted to “ethnic cleansing.” Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, has already opened a preliminary investigation into crimes against humanity, saying some “victims appeared to have been deliberately targeted on religious grounds.” A top U.N. official issued similar warnings during a recent visit to the ravaged capital, Bangui, telling reporters: “There is an ethnic-religious cleansing taking place. It must be stopped.” The campaign of looting and murder in recent weeks has led to an alarming demographic crisis in the Central African Republic. About 1 million of its 4.6 million people have been displaced and at least 2,000 have been killed. Muslims account for 15 percent of the population, or about 690,000 people; Médecins Sans Frontières said in a conference call with reporters on Feb. 18 that at least 80,000 had already left. Entire neighborhoods in Bangui and towns in the northwest have emptied as a mass exodus pours into neighboring countries Cameroon and Chad. Aid groups fear the fleeing of Muslim traders and cattle herders, who are crucial to the country’s food production and distribution, may spark a famine. The scene today vastly differs from last year. “If you drove across the country in November, you would have been impressed by the power of the Séléka,” says Joanne Mariner, a senior crisis adviser with Amnesty in Bangui, referring to the impact of the rebels’ offensive that began in late 2012. “Now if you drive across the country, you find anti-balaka everywhere. They are the people who are in control of the roads and the…

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Warlord Joseph Kony May Surrender Soon

The president of the Central African Republic confirmed Thursday that he has been in contact with the warlord Joseph Kony to negotiate the Ugandan rebel leader’s surrender, AFP reports. “It’s true, Joseph Kony wants to come out of the bush. We are negotiating with him,” President Michel Djotodia said during a meeting with top political leaders in the capital Bangui. ”He asked for food supplies and the government took care of that.” The comments come one day after an African Union envoy claimed Djotodia had been in talks with Kony, who’s reported to be seriously ill, about a possible surrender. But on Thursday, the U.S. State Department acknowledged American officials “have little reason to believe” the report. Instead, U.S. authorities said it believed a smaller unit of the Lord’s Resistance Army was in contact with the Central African Republic. The feared warlord of the LRA, which has terrorized villages in the region with rampant pillaging, rape and massacres, has been wanted by the International Criminal Court since 2005 for crimes against humanity. More than 5,000 troops are hunting Kony and his men — who human rights groups say have kidnapped thousands of children, forcing them to become soldiers or sex slaves — in the jungles between the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. The Central African Republic is currently grappling with a massive humanitarian crisis and continuing political upheaval after rebels took power earlier this year. [AFP]

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More Peacekeepers Head to Central African Republic

(BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo) — The Republic of Congo has sent 200 more soldiers to join a peacekeeping force in Central African Republic, which saw an upsurge in violence that killed dozens earlier this month. Gen. Blanchard Okoye, the armed forces chief of staff, urged the soldiers to be disciplined during a ceremony Sunday marking their departure. The troops will join 150 other Republic of Congo soldiers who were deployed in July under the banner of a regional force that is now being transformed into a 3,600-member international peacekeeping mission. The security situation in Central African Republic remains dire six months after the Seleka coalition of rebels ousted Francois Bozize, the former president. President Michel Djotodia announced on Friday that he had dissolved Seleka, though it was unclear what effect this would have on curbing violence.

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Central African Republic Rebels Attack Villages, Kill 25

(BANGUI, Central African Republic) — A Red Cross worker says rebel attacks on villages in Central African Republic’s west have killed at least 25 people. Namssene Paulin, a Red Cross worker in the region near Bossangoa said that elements of the Seleka rebel alliance are spreading fear in the area with these attacks, and villagers have fled to find safety. Paulin said Monday that the rebels arrived in the village of Poulissi on Friday in three vehicles and began killing residents there. Paulin said at least 25 people were killed in attacks on various villages near Bossangoa that day, including a pregnant woman and a child. The rebel alliance, known as Seleka, overthrew the president of Central African Republic in December, and elements have since been accused of killing civilians and looting. PHOTOS: Ponte City: An Apartheid-Era High Rise Mired in Mythb.gif?host=world.time.com&blog=19871253&post=87846&subd=timeglobalspin&ref=&feed=1

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