The rise of Christian militias in the Central African Republic has drawn the ire of the international community. Sunday heavily armed peacekeepers rescued a group of Muslim hostages being held in a mosque by Christian militants in the capital city of Bangui.
Fearing for their safety, peacekeepers escorted the 1,300 Muslims to neighboring Chad. Accusations of ethnic cleansing prompted envoys from the U.N., the U.S. State Department and the Organization for Islam Cooperation (OIC) to be deployed to the region to secure the safety of the remaining 15 percent of the Muslim population.
Joanne Mariner, a senior crisis advisor for Amnesty International, said the people evacuated Sunday “lived in daily fear for months.”
“It’s tragic and inexcusable that the situation was allowed to fall apart so that in the end evacuation was the only way to save people’s lives,” she said. “Much more should have been done to prevent ethnic cleansing in December and January, before tens of thousands of Muslims had fled.”
While the U.K. Guardian characterizes the militias as Christian “lynch mobs,” the Associated Press, “violent Christian militants,” and Time Magazine either “evangelicals” or “Catholics” – the militia call themselves “anti-balaka,” meaning “anti-machete.”
By categorizing Christian groups as militias, the press draws parallels of moral equivalence between jihad and acts of self-preservation. By declaring 85% percent of non-Muslims Christians, they infer that those who act in self-defense are xenophobic.
The Central African Republic (CAR), politically unstable since gaining independence from the French in 1960, has had several uprisings in recent years. The Seleka, an alliance of rebel Muslim militia groups, seized power in 2013 in a ceasefire agreement with the CAR government after failed attempts to reestablish law and order.
Seleka leader, Michel Djotodia, breaching his promises of a negotiated transitional government, declared himself president. Recognized as legitimate by military leaders and neighboring countries, the terrorist-turned-president promptly suspended the constitution and dissolved the sitting government. In 2014, the international community pressured Djotodia to resign claiming he had “little control over his forces, who were blamed for raping, torturing and killing civilians particularly among the country’s Christian majority.” What remains in the Central African Republic is a backlash against Muslim rule.
Failing to establish a caliphate in CAR, now Seleka members wish to secede from the Central African Republic to establish a nation of their own.
Now free from the grips of the Seleka, the free people of the Central African Republic anticipate the arrival of an international envoy and their Islamic cooperatives to chastise them for retaliatory acts of self-preservation. The “anti-machetes” must prepare themselves as their interim government is about to get schooled on moral equivalence and coexistence by interlopers who seek to vouchsafe the right of religious jihad while criminalizing the right to self-defense.