|A Christian man chases a suspected Muslim Seleka officer in civilian |
clothes with a knife near the airport in Bangu.
Photo: AP Photo/Jerome Delay
A Crusade in Central Africa?
"All the meek shall inherit is a burial ditch
or the chains of slavery."
BANGUI, Central African Republic — Dozens of young men stood waiting for storm clouds to pass, as wind stirred up swirls of red dust on the largely deserted street in Central African Republic’s capital. Through the drizzle, they spotted a man in a flowing white robe traditionally worn by Muslims, hand-in-hand with his adolescent son.
The style of dress was enough to confirm that this was their enemy.
Hungry for revenge, the crowd descended upon the pair. The man’s terrified son broke away, and fled on foot, abandoning his father as the knife-wielding mob clutched the middle-aged man.
Muslim rebels known as Seleka overthrew the government of this majority Christian nation nine months ago, sparking mounting sectarian violence that prompted former colonizer France last week to deploy troops to Bangui in an effort to stop the bloodshed reports the New York Post.
In a city where more than 400 people died last week in two days of tit-for-tat violence between Christians and Muslims, it was clear Monday there is still enough pent-up rage left that a crowd will try to kill a man on sight.
The angry mob insisted their victim served as a general in the Muslim rebel movement accused of carrying out atrocities against the nation’s Christian population, including tying victims together and throwing them off bridges to drown. “Seleka! Seleka! Seleka!” screamed the men as they encircled the Muslim man in a tornado of anger.
In this case, French forces intervened just in time, firing into the air as a warning. “I am a merchant! I am a merchant!,” the man cried as the French pulled him away, his back covered in dirt and his gown ripped off. His tearful son came back, his white shirt covered in blood, and the French ferried them to safety.
Other Muslims were not as fortunate. In the Benzvi neighborhood, a mob descended upon two ex-Seleka leaders leaving their home Monday afternoon. One got away. The crowd took up the only weapons they had against the other, witnesses said.
“People picked up rocks from the ground and stoned him to death,” said Junior Dagdag, 28, pointing to the pool of blood and stones in the middle of the road, where the victim’s car burned and smoke plumed into the sky. “Some brought his body to the hospital while others set his car on fire.”
The latest round of violence began Thursday, when armed Christian fighters who oppose the ex-Seleka forces in power attacked the capital and were later repelled by the ex-rebels.
Already 1,600 French forces are on the ground. French helicopters buzzed overhead while dozens of military vehicles, including armored personnel carriers, snaked through neighborhoods where tensions ran high. French forces came under attack near the airport but the area was later secured.
President Michel Djotodia had demanded that the fighters who brought him to power remain in their barracks Monday so that French forces and African troops from a regional peacekeeping mission could secure the city. Fed-up Christians sought to enforce the law themselves, chasing anyone they suspected as being part of Seleka – even in civilian clothing – off of the streets.
Emmanuel Yakanga, 53, a Christian, said he walked by a group of Christians harassing some men they accused of being Seleka and that he understands their anger. Even as ex-Seleka elements promised to disarm and hand over their weapons to the French, Christian neighborhoods are coming under attack nightly, he said. Yakanga’s 17-year-old niece was fatally shot on Thursday, he said.
“This talk of disarmament is merely superficial. They’re just going to keep their weapons elsewhere,” Yakanga said of the ex-Seleka.