Christian-Muslim conflict in Central African Republic has refugees afraid to leave camps

No matter how safe they tell her it is outside, Bahriyah Abidah insists she won’t leave the St. Joseph Mukassa camp.

The United Nations recently announced that it was dispatching another 1,000 soldiers to bring the total peacekeeping force in this desperately impoverished country to 13,000 troops. However, France is slowly reducing its force of 2,000 soldiers and the European Union pulled out its 750 troops last month. Both said their presence is no longer necessary.

Ms. Abidah nonetheless fears leaving the camp and encountering “anti-balaka” fighters — the predominantly Christian and animist militias formed after Islamic rebels calling themselves Seleka seized the government in late 2013 and attacked non-Muslim villages, plunging the country into sectarian war.


Conflicts between Christians and Muslims are playing out in a number of African countries, but perhaps in none has the violence been so brutal and the politics so treacherous as in this country of nearly 5 million people at the geographic center of Africa. Even the news of a possible truce between the warring factions Friday may not be enough forMs. Abidah and others to abandon their fears.

Ms. Abidah is Muslim. Anti-balaka militants killed her husband a year ago when they occupied sections of Bangui, the capital. “I will rather stay here and be safe,” said the 31-year-old mother of four. “Every person outside there is an enemy and divided on religious beliefs. I will not go anywhere.”

Thousands have died in the fighting, more than 440,000 have been displaced and 190,000 have fled to neighboring Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo, according to the United Nations...

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