Johannesburg – Violence in the Central African Republic has reached extreme and unprecedented levels, as civilians are targeted by the main opposing armed groups, the ex-Seleka and the anti-Balaka, the international medical humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders(MSF) said today.
Although the conflict is complex and many communities are affected by the violence, the minority Muslim community is being increasingly targeted according to what MSF is seeing on the ground. In many towns, Muslim groups are isolated and threatened by anti-Balaka forces while tens of thousands of Muslims have already fled to Chad or Cameroon.
"Civilians remain in constant fear for their lives, and have been largely left to fend for themselves," said Martine Flokstra, MSF emergency coordinator. "In the northwest and in Bangui, we are currently witnessing direct attacks against the Muslim minority. We are concerned about the fate of these communities trapped in their villages, surrounded by anti-Balaka groups."
Muslims in the northwestern towns of Bouca, Bossangoa, Carnot, Berberati and Baoro have left because of the violence. MSF teams have treated wounded patients in at least eight towns in the northwest. In Bozoum, a Muslim community of 2,500 people left the village on February 5.
In Bouar, a Muslim community of more than 8,000 people are unable to flee the violence. Armed groups are preventing their departure, and access to health care is almost impossible.
The majority Christian population also remains affected and thousands are still living in fear. The conflict has caused massive displacement and hundreds of thousands of people are currently seeking refuge at religious centers in towns or at the airport in Bangui, where living conditions are appalling.
Thirty thousand Muslim refugees have already crossed the border to Chad while 10,000 have reached Cameroon. In Bangui, Muslim families are gathering in a separate camp at the airport, in the Great Mosque or in isolated displacement sites like the one at PK12, waiting for a possible departure or hoping for some protection.
In Bangui, fighting and looting continues unabated. In January alone, MSF treated more than 1,650 wounded patients from both Muslim and Christian communities as a direct result of the violence in Bangui. At the Castor Health Center in Bangui, MSF admitted 91 patients with machete or bullet wounds in the last week. At the Bangui airport camp, where approximately 100,000 people are taking refuge, teams provided medical care to 265 wounded patients in January, including 100 in the final week.
MSF has been working in Central African Republic since 1997, and now runs seven regular projects in Batangafo, Boguila, Carnot, Kabo, Ndéle, Paoua and Zémio, and seven emergency projects in Bangui, Bouar, Bozoum, Bossangoa, Bouca, Bria and Berberati. MSF has more than 240 international staff and 2,000 local staff working in the country.
For more information or to arrange interviews:
Kate Ribet, Media Liaison Officer, MSF SA
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