__________________________________________________________ Drive north from the capital, and you soon discover why relief workers call the Central African Republic a post-apocalyptic country. After a year of mass murder, the villages are abandoned and the roads eerily empty and desolate.
The checkpoints are controlled by cold-eyed men from largely Christian militias who brandish knives, machetes, swords and other crude weapons. Occasionally, a decrepit taxi comes barrelling down the road, ludicrously overloaded with 15 or 20 refugees, some piled on the roof. At times, a slow-moving convoy appears – busloads of terrified Muslims, with an escort of heavily armed peacekeepers to protect them from slaughter.
They represent 15 per cent of the country’s 4.5 million people, but even where they were a substantial minority, almost all Muslims have been killed or forced to flee. The last ones in the impoverished town of Boali were removed a month ago, and a local administrator admits it is still too dangerous for her Muslim husband and children to visit, let alone come back for good.
Last year, when largely Muslim rebel forces seized power, it was the Christians who fled for their lives even though the two communities had lived peacefully side by side for decades.
A horrifyingly bureaucratic term, “ethno-religious cleansing,” has been invented to describe the massacres in the CAR. While experts argue over whether it qualifies as genocide, those inside the country know only that the killing is endless. In the capital, Bangui, bodies still pile up in the morgues, mosques and streets.
What began as a political struggle has become sectarian. “One group is trying to exterminate the other,” says Dr. Jean Chrysostome Gody, director of Bangui’s pediatric hospital. “It’s about extreme brutal revenge. They are trying to eradicate a race.”