World Bulletin / News Desk
The Christian anti-balaka militia in the troubled Central African Republic has, for the first time, pledged not to attacks Muslims in Boda, located some 200km south of capital Bangui.
In a written document signed Tuesday, the anti-balaka committed itself to not using weapons in the town, cooperating with French forces stationed there, and refraining from attacking the town's Muslim community, an Anadolu Agency correspondent reported from the scene.
The document was sponsored by Joachim Kokaté, a security advisor to the country's prime minister, who is known to be close to the Christian militia. It was drafted in the wake of recent violence against the town's Muslims, which had forced many of the latter to flee.
The document represents "a commitment by the anti-balaka to the state and the Central African people in hopes of achieving national reconciliation," Kokaté told AA.
"The government is firmly committed to continuing in this direction," he added.
The pact was welcomed in Bangui, where Abdelaziz Meriga, vice-president of the Association of Muslim Cadres, a local NGO, hailed it as "a step towards reconciliation."
But he went on to tell AA that the Muslim community sought more direct consultation with the anti- balaka militia, along with Boda's administrative and local authorities.
"We want peace," he asserted.
But in Boda itself, local Muslims voiced skepticism.
"What's change will this pact bring? We're stuck here," one local Muslim, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told AA.
"There are traders who have lost all their possessions; children are dying for lack of care; women are giving birth in inhuman conditions ... You can't move one meter in safety," he said.
"We haven't even seen the anti-balaka. We haven't discussed this pact; we don't know whether they want us to leave or stay," he added.
The Central African Republic descended into anarchy one year ago when seleka rebels removed Francois Bozize, a Christian who had come to power in a 2003 coup. The rebels later installed Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, as interim president.
Since then, the country has been plagued by tit-for-tat sectarian violence between Christian anti-balaka militias and Muslim former seleka fighters.
Anti-Muslim violence has escalated since Catherine Samba-Panza, a Christian, was elected interim president in January.
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.
Located 140 kilometers from the capital Bangui, Boda has been a hotspot for clashes between Muslims and Christians in the Central African Republic.
Under the supervision of 120 French troops, the city has turned into an open-air prison for its 11,000 Muslim residents, who fear attacks by the anti-balaka militia.
The city is also facing a food crisis, as the UN warns that its food program for the city is no longer able to deliver aid.
Groceries can no longer be found in the markets, and the only access to food is via those who are able to pay the exit fee to go to Bangui, as well as rich businessmen who bring grain with their private jets.
Medical supplies and doctors another concern in the city, with a nurse named Maria left to deal with serious illnesses alone. HIV and tuberculoses sufferers have been cut off from their medicines and children are malnurished.
The local imam, Ali Babu, asks ''Where is Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey? What are they waiting for?
''Should we stay here to prevent those who want to kill Muslims from gaining victory or should we leave and save ourselves? Most Christians support the anti-balaka,'' he said.
''I understand those who see mosque's being burnt, Qur'ans torn and Muslims killed and want other Muslim countries to intervene, but if Jihadists come here, what will be left? In a small country like ours, the only solution is peace,'' he added.Last Mod: 19 Mart 2014, 15:39