World Bulletin / News Desk
The relocation of the first batch of Muslims from their homes in the PK 12 district of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, to Bambari, 300km to the northwest, was concluded on Friday under French military protection.
"Nearly 3500 Muslims, including women and children, were living in PK 12 in a space of just 400 square meters," local mosque imam Ahmat Oumar, who was among those who headed to Bambari, told Anadolu Agency.
"Each day, we mourn our dead," he said. "We will be much better off here [in Bambari]."
"We are victims of the ethnic cleansing of Muslims. As evidence, no sign of Islam is now noticeable all the way from PK 12 to Bambari. All the mosques were destroyed and Muslim property stolen," he added.
The government has been under pressure to facilitate the evacuation of Bangui's Muslim community – especially those in PK 12 on Bangui's northern outskirts to Bambari in the city center – due to fears of fresh anti-Muslim violence by Christian militiamen.
Anti-Muslim violence has escalated since January, when Catherine Samba-Panza, a Christian, was elected interim president.
Christians, who account for the majority of the country's population, accuse Muslims of supporting former seleka rebels blamed for attacking Christian homes, looting property and carrying out summary executions.
"I did not want to come to Bambari, but I had no choice . I was wounded in a shootout, so I came here because I need treatment. Otherwise, I would never have left Bangui," a visibly exhausted Taher Ali, who was also among the convoy, told AA.
Two independent U.N. rights experts said Friday that evacuating religious minorities should only be done as a last resort and should be implemented in full consultation with the minority in question and in accordance with international standards.
"The dilemma to either stay and risk one's life or be evacuated is enormous for religious minorities in the Central African Republic," they said, noting that individuals had to decide for themselves and should be guaranteed a safe return.
The country descended into anarchy one year ago when seleka rebels ousted Francois Bozize, a Christian who had come to power in a 2003 coup. The rebels later installed Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, as interim president.
Since then, the country has been plagued by tit-for-tat sectarian violence between Christian anti-balaka militias and Muslim former seleka fighters.Last Mod: 26 Nisan 2014, 13:12