BANGUI – Months after failing to end ongoing cleansing of Central African Republic Muslim population, France announced on Tuesday, April 8, its support for Muslims’ evacuation to safer areas.
“France believes that moving populations must be a last resort,” Romain Nadal, France's Foreign Ministry spokesman, was quoted by Reuters on Tuesday, April 8.
“Nevertheless, it is helping to ease limited evacuations in agreement with populations, notably when their security is under threat or humanitarian aid access cannot be guaranteed.”
Central Africa In Crisis (OnIslam Special)
France's decision to support evacuating Muslims followed UN calls last week for an “urgent relocation” of the religious minority to safer spots.
According to Nadal, the priority was to relocate Muslims within the country, not outside it.
Earlier this month, the UN's refugee agency warned that a new wave of anti-Muslim violence has increased the number of internally displaced persons in CAR to 637,000, with 207,000 refugees in the capital alone.
Since the eruption of the conflict last December, about 1 million Central Africans were internally displaced inside the republic.
Moreover, more than 82,000 central African Muslims have fled to neighboring countries including Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and Chad.
The death toll has also climbed to more than 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, including women and children, the refugee agency stated.
Rights activists believe that France's decision to back evacuating vulnerable Muslims “would save lives”.
“The urgency today is to save lives,” Nadal said.
“The objective is to protect people. The admission of failure is the national reconciliation, which is taking more time.”
“France is attached to the protection of all populations in the Central African Republic, including, obviously, Muslim populations which are the target of intolerable threats and attacks,” Nadal told KUNA.
France has announced earlier it rejection to evacuate threatened civilians to safer places.
“Our role is to protect populations and do everything so that they can live where they have always lived,” General Francisco Soriano, the head of the French contingent, said last week.
Amid accusations of siding with Muslims and killing civilians, Chad announced last Thursday withdrawing its troops from the AU peacekeeping mission in CAR.
Chad withdrawal was deemed as a setback to the threatened Muslims who face discrimination by the French peacekeeping troops.
“The Muslim population are worried and saw the Chadian contingent as their protectors,” Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, head of the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), told France 24 on Wednesday, April 9.
“Their leaving, especially in the [central] region of Bossangoa, will be difficult for the Muslims.”
The pullout of Chad's 850 troops, which began last Friday, is expected to derail the peacekeeping mission in the strife-torn country.
“We would have preferred that they [withdraw] in a manner that was convenient for us,” Mokoko, the head of MISCA, explained.
“But apparently the decision is irrevocable and immediate. As soon as they are able to quit Central African Republic, they will do so.”
On Monday, the United Nations warned that more than 1.6 million people in CAR are in “urgent need” for food.
“First and foremost, we need to see the violence stop. At the same time, we need to help save lives and rebuild livelihoods,” Arif Husain, chief economist at World Food Program, was quoted by Agence France Presse (AFP) earlier this week.
“Every passing day only makes emergency assistance more difficult and more expensive and leads to the loss of more innocent lives.”
Over the past months, anti-balaka Christian militias have raided Muslim homes killing children and women, looting and vandalizing properties.
Along with killing, kidnapping, torture and arbitrary arrest and detention, in the war-torn CAR, a UN investigation found evidences of sexual violence.
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.
In March, the UNHCR had warned that entire Muslim populations from western parts of Central African Republic have been cleansed by Christian militias.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net - Read full article here
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