The Central African Republic is 80% Christian; here as elsewhere, however, the Christian population is menaced by Islamist militants who consider them adversaries and prey even upon civilians. According to one church leader, these militants “don’t want to see any Christians here…Christians never go to town. If they do, they are threatened, arrested, and asked to pay fines before they are released….We rely only on prayers. Please pray for us!”
“Central African Republic: Dozens feared dead after massacre in Bria,” World Watch Monitor, September 17, 2018:
In Central African Republic, dozens of people are feared killed after suspected Islamist rebels attacked a group of civilians in the central town of Bria earlier this month.
Early reports suggested that between 12 to 14 people were killed during the attack on 4-5 September, but local sources contacted by World Watch Monitor said as many as 42 were killed, as details about the attacks are now emerging.
The massacre took place over two days, and it was a further two days until some youths were able to access the area to recover a dozen bodies.
“We received information that they had been killed, but no-one had the courage to immediately go and look for their bodies. It was only two days later [on 7 September] that some youths went and retrieved the corpses,” the source explained. “They brought them here and laid them in front of the MINUSCA (UN peacekeepers) office in the camp. They have since been buried.”
Other sources told World Watch Monitor that the victims were mainly women who were hacked to death while returning from farms to PK3, the predominantly Christian quarter of the town, to sell their farm products. Some of the victims also lived there, in PK3, the largest internally displaced persons (IDP) site in the Central African Republic, with an estimated 100,000 people, 80,000 of whom are IDPs, according to the UN.
Some of the victims had gunshot wounds, while others died of machete wounds. At least one of the women was pregnant. “All those women slaughtered! It is terrible,” lamented Gedeon, who lives in the IDP camp. “The situation is very tense here. Although it is relatively calm right now, there no movement, nothing.”
The massacre was attributed to members of the Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC), one of the four factions of the now-disbanded Séléka rebel group active in Bria.
A week earlier (29 August) three ex-Seleka groups, including the FPRC and one Anti-balaka (vigilante) group led by Maxime Mokom, committed themselves to work for peace and political stability in CAR….
A number of incidents, including armed robberies, kidnappings and other type of attacks against civilians, were reported. The Christian populations of the town said they had been particularly targeted.
“They [Seleka militants] don’t want to see any Christians here,” one church leader said. “They say all Christians are Anti-balaka, so if you are caught, you are gone. They falsely claim that even church leaders are heads of the Anti-balaka. Christians never go to town. If they do, they are threatened, arrested, and asked to pay fines before they are released. There is no way to move to town. They have barricaded all roads, and if you venture out, you are at your own peril. We Christians have nothing else to do, no food to eat, no place to go. We rely only on prayers. Please pray for us!”
“It is a very difficult situation for us here. We pray for God’s help for us,” another church leader in the camp said.
It was against that backdrop that the massacre of dozens of farmers took place. On Friday 7 September, an angry crowd (made up of women, community leaders and youths) transported the bodies of the victims to the headquarters of the MINUSCA….