CAR imam says conflict not about Islam, blames seleka

"It is not a religious war. It is a political conflict," said Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, a top leader of the Muslim community in CAR.

CAR imam says conflict not about Islam, blames seleka

World Bulletin / News Desk

The top Muslim religious leader in the war-ravaged Central African Republic (CAR) has asserted that the country's current conflict is political not religious, going on to blame ex-seleka fighters for the plight of CAR's Muslims.

"All what is happening now has no relation with Islam or Christianity. It is all about politics," Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, a top Muslim community leader in CAR, told Anadolu Agency on Tuesday.

"It's not a religious war," he added. "It's a political conflict."

On Monday, Abakar Sabone, a former government minister and leader of CAR's seleka fighters, threatened that Muslims in northern CAR could secede from the rest of the country.

"If peace isn't restored, independence [of Muslims in the north] will be the only solution for us," Sabone told AA.

He suggested the conflict was religiously motivated.

"The issue is about Islam," Sabone said. "The Organization of Islamic Cooperation must shoulder its responsibility and rescue Central African Muslims."

Imam Layama, however, insisted otherwise.

"The seleka are the cause of the problem," the leading imam told AA in Bangui. "They came only for power. They have no relation with Islam."

"What the Muslims are living [through] today is because of the seleka behavior when they were in power," he asserted. "They even attacked other Muslims."

CAR descended into anarchy in March 2013 when Seleka rebels – said to be mostly Muslim – ousted Francois Bozize, a Christian who had come to power in a 2003 coup, and installed Michel Djotodia as interim president.

For months, the country was plagued by tit-for-tat sectarian violence between the anti-balaka and former seleka fighters.

In January, Catherine Samba-Panza, a Christian who was serving as Bangui mayor at the time, was elected by the country's interim parliament as new interim president.


Imam Layama laments that Muslims have increasingly been targeted in recent weeks.

"We are sad for the situation of Muslims today," he said. "They are Central Africans, not foreign soldiers."

"I have documents about massacres," he added, noting that, of the 36 mosques that had originally stood in Bangui, "today, they are less than ten."

According to Imam Layama, a total of 67 mosques have been destroyed across the African country.

Late Sunday, two Muslims were lynched by a mob of angry Christians in Bangui before the Rwandan contingent of African peacekeeping force MISCA intervened to save the others.

On Friday, a Muslim man was pulled off a truck heading to Chad and lynched by a Christian mob that later set his body on fire.

Last week, no sooner had Samba-Panza left after a ceremony to welcome back army deserters than hundreds of army personnel dragged a civilian from the crowd and lynched him on suspicion that he was a former seleka fighter.

Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director for Human Rights Watch who was present at the scene, told AA that the soldiers "set his body on fire, while everybody around was laughing and taking photos with their mobile phones."

Last Mod: 11 Şubat 2014, 12:39
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