FRANCE 24’s special correspondent in the Central African Republic has met a priest who sheltered hundreds of Muslim refugees in his church as sectarian violence raged throughout the weekend in the town of Boali, northwest of the capital Bangui.
Muslim families fleeing south towards the capital last week were targeted by armed members of the anti-balaka (“anti-machete”) Christian militias, forcing them to head back to Boali and ask French troops for protection. In Boali alone, at least four people died in the violence and twenty others were injured.
The sight of anti-Balaka militiamen chasing local Muslims with knives and machetes prompted the abbot, Xavier Fagba, to offer them shelter inside his church. "I am not going to let anyone hurt the people inside my church, it doesn’t matter whether they are Christians or Muslims", Xavier Fagba told FRANCE 24.
Around 70 French troops are guarding the church, where some 700 terrified Muslims have taken refuge. An AFP journalist at the scene reported that sanitary conditions were deteriorating after the refugees, mostly women and children, spent two nights inside the church.
The presence of 1,600 French troops and nearly 5,000 African Union peacekeepers has so far failed to stop sectarian violence between Muslim former rebels and the Christian majority.
“This embed with the French military in the northern part of the country shows just how tricky it is to secure the Central African Republic. Everywhere we stop the military finds people with guns, machetes, and even hand grenades”, said Ben Barnier, FRANCE 24’s special correspondent in CAR.
Watch FRANCE 24’s exclusive video report by clicking on the picture above.
Date created : 2014-01-20