THE resignation of the President of the Central African Republic
(CAR), Michel Djotodia, has left the troubled nation at a
crossroads, analysts have said.
Mr Djotodia, who led the Seleka coalition of rebels and
overthrew the former President Francois Bozize in March, stepped
down, together with his prime minister, after negotiations in
neighbouring Chad last Friday. The move was largely welcomed by the
country's Christian majority as Mr Djotodia had been unable to
prevent fighting between former Seleka rebels - who are mainly
Muslim - and so-called "anti-balaka" militias, who are often
A former expert on central Africa for the European Union's aid
agency ECHO, Michael Gowen, told a briefing in Parliament on the
CAR on Monday that the vacuum left behind by Mr Djotodia's
resignation had created space for intervention. He said: "The CAR
stands at a crossroads. Either it degenerates back into a state of
anarchy with increasingly vicious reprisals between the two
communities and an increasingly Islamist element from outside, or
there is an opportunity to begin to build a cohesive state."
There are already 1600 French peacekeepers in the capital,
Bangui, and a larger force of African Union troops as well. Neither
force, however, has been able in recent weeks to prevent massacres
and atrocities perpetrated by both sides. Many thousands have been
killed, and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes.
There have been reports of Muslims' being murdered in the
streets by mobs angered by the killings by Seleka fighters. The BBC
reported from Bangui that a man known as "Mad Dog" had eaten part
of the severed leg of a Muslim man who had been hacked to
The man said: "I stabbed him in the head. I poured petrol on
him. I burned him. Then I ate his leg, the whole thing right down
to the white bone. That's why people call me Mad Dog." "Mad Dog"
said that "Muslims" had killed his pregnant wife, his
sister-in-law, and her baby.
Two missionaries who had been working with Wycliffe Bible
Translators in CAR until the coup last year, Jo and Paul Murrell,
also spoke at the parliamentary briefing. Mrs Murrell said:
"Sectarian violence was never our experience. Practising Muslims
and Christians respected each other's beliefs."
But Mr Murrell said: "Some communities are now becoming
polarised. One pastor said that within his living memory he had not
known such barbaric cruelty. I myself witnessed the abduction of a
young man taken away by five Seleka men, kicking and screaming into
a truck. I heard the detonation of a grenade thrown into a crowd,
which killed a pregnant woman. I can see why some people want
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bangui, the Most Revd Dieudonné
Nzapalainga, has taken the chief imam of the CAR, Oumar Layama,
into his home, however, after Mr Layama became a refugee from the
Archbishop Nzapalainga told Channel 4: "This country, the
Central African Republic, well it used to be like Switzerland. I
went to a school with Muslim boys. We played football together. Now
we live together, we shop together, we eat roast lamb at Christmas
Mrs Murrell said that she knew of Muslims who had helped and
protected a 15-year-old Christian girl, injured while fleeing
soldiers. She said: "The leaders of each religion are advancing
peace and not seeking revenge. It is very unhelpful to talk of
Christian militia groups.
"They are not Christian by any definition that Churches would
expect. According to pastors, many of the militia have deliberately
distanced themselves from the Church."