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12,000 People Take Refuge in Cathedral in Central African Republic

Albert Gonzalez Farran/Unamid

Agenzia Fides - published on 07/01/14

Ongoing violence between Muslim and Christian militias threaten genocide.

Violence has forced most of the inhabitants of a city in the Central African Republic to flee, Fides reports.

"We have welcomed at least 12,000 people in St. Joseph Cathedral who are still totally without any assistance," said Bishop Eduard Mathos of Bambari, where the violence of the Seleka militia have forced most of the inhabitants to flee. "Some NGOs have come to see the situation, but so far no humanitarian aid has arrived. Everything is lacking. Only the Red Cross is bringing water", the bishop said.

Bishop Mathos, who himself was kidnapped and briefly held by rebels in 2011, launched an "appeal for action to be taken now in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster."

The Seleka militia is mostly Muslim, but the violence is being carried out against Muslims as well. On Monday, a Christian militia swept down on the village of Ardo-Djobi near Bambari, killing 18 Muslims of the Fulani ethnicity, AP reported. Just a few days earlier, Muslim gunmen had attacked Christians in the nearby village of Liwa and killed 21.

The tit-for-tat attacks against rival religious groups in Central African Republic threaten to create the conditions for a genocide reminiscent of Bosnia in the 1990s and requires swift efforts by the government and the international community to stop the violence, said a new report by the International Federation for Human Rights.

The Central African Republic has been rocked by unrest since March 2013 when a largely Muslim alliance of rebel groups known as the Seleka overthrew President Francois Bozize. More than a million people, nearly a quarter of the population, have been displaced by the violence pitting Muslim rebels against Christian militias known as the anti-Balaka.

"Seleka and anti-Balaka forces mirror one another in the horror of the acts that they have perpetrated in the context of a conflict that has become so vile that more people are killed than injured," warned the report, which was researched with two local human rights organizations between the summer of 2013 and February 2014.

After the Seleka were forced out of the capital and back to the northern and eastern parts of the country, enclaves of besieged Muslims civilians were left at the mercy of the anti-Balaka militias, who soon switched their targets from just those allied to the rebels to all Muslims.

The United States announced late Monday another $51 million in humanitarian support for Central African Republic to provide clean water, food, emergency health services and relief supplies as well as programs to reunite lost family members.

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