Protest in CAR capital over sectarian violence

Wednesday May 9 2018

Central African Republic's President Faustin

Central African Republic's President Faustin Archange Touadera. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Government offices, banks and schools were shut Wednesday in the Central African Republic (CAR) capital Bangui in protest over deadly violence that has sparked fears of a return to sectarian conflict.

However, most shops remained open and taxis circulated normally despite the call for a "dead city" day by civil society.

Twenty-four people were killed and more than 170 injured in Bangui on May 1 in violence that began with a confrontation between security forces and militiamen in the mainly Muslim PK5 district.

Killing worshippers

Armed men then stormed the Fatima church in the middle of a service, killing worshippers and a priest. In response, a mob burned a mosque and lynched two people believed to be Muslim.

Tension has remained high in the capital where automatic weapons fire is frequently heard from the PK5 area.

On Sunday, at least two people were killed and 10 injured in new clashes there.

One of the world's poorest and most unstable countries, the CAR spiralled into bloodshed after longtime leader Francois Bozize was overthrown in 2013 by a predominantly Muslim rebel alliance called the Seleka.

Nominally Christian militias called the anti-Balaka emerged in response, accelerating a cycle of sectarian violence.

Ex-rebels and militias

France intervened militarily from 2013 to 2016 to push out the Seleka, winding down the operation after Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected president in a peaceful vote in February seen as a step toward reconciliation.

President Touadera governs today with the support of a large UN peacekeeping operation. But most of the country is controlled by ex-rebels and militias, many of them claiming to act as guardians for the Muslim or Christian communities.