Dozens of people are feared dead after suspected Islamic barbarians attacked civilians in the Central African Republic earlier this month.
Sources contacted by World Watch Monitor say as many as 42 were killed in the attack on September 4-5, contradicting earlier reports that between 12 and 14 died.
World Watch Monitor’s sources said the victims were mainly women, who were hacked to death while returning from their farms to the predominantly Christian quarter of Bria, in the center of the country. The town is the location of PK3, the largest internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in the country.
Some of the victims had gunshot wounds, while others died of machete wounds. At least one was pregnant.
The massacre was attributed to barbarians of the Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC), one of the four factions of the now-disbanded Séléka rebel group active in Bria.
A week earlier, on August 29, three ex-Seleka groups, including the FPRC and one Anti-Balaka (vigilante) group led by Maxime Mokom, committed themselves to work for peace and political stability in CAR.
The agreement, known as The Khartoum Declaration of Understanding of the Central African Armed Groups, followed a two-day meeting for peace, brokered by Russia.
The meeting in the Sudanese capital took place at the same time as an official mediation effort led by the African Union (AU), with representatives of 14 armed groups, to finalise joint demands.
Despite the presence of UN peacekeepers, the town of Bria witnessed a wave of violence at the end of August following violent clashes between barbarians of the FPRC and Anti-Balaka vigilantes. The movement of people, including humanitarian workers, is still very limited.
A number of incidents, including armed robberies, kidnappings and other type of attacks against civilians, have been reported and the Christian populations of the town said they had been particularly targeted.
‘They [Seleka militants] don’t want to see any Christians here,’ one church leader said. ‘They say all Christians are Anti-Balaka, so if you are caught, you are gone.’
He added: ‘Christians never go to town. If they do, they are threatened, arrested, and asked to pay fines before they are released. There is no way to move to town. They have barricaded all roads, and if you venture out, you are at your own peril. We Christians have nothing else to do, no food to eat, no place to go. We rely only on prayers. Please pray for us!’
The Bria massacre took place only a few kilometres away from the headquarters of the MINUSCA UN peacekeeping force. On Friday September 7, protesters took the bodies of the victims to MINUSCA headquarters, accusing them of not doing enough to protect civilians. A local aid worker told World Watch Monitor that they had lost trust in UN troops, who ‘tend to act as fire-fighters, waiting to count the death toll, despite the equipment – including aerial material – at their disposal’.
Recently, Fulani Muslim barbarians launched raids on eight villages in central Nigeria,, burning alive a Christian pastor along with his wife and three of their children.
In the village of Abonong in Plateau State, the Islamic barbarians, armed with machetes and AK47 rifles, looted and destroyed 95 houses, along with farmland and three churches. They killed Pastor Adamu Gyang Wurim and his family by setting fire to their house while they were inside and shot the pastor’s wife in the bathroom. The assailants killed two other villagers as well, wounding several others.
The attack, which began Tuesday evening around 8:00 p.m., lasted over four hours before security personnel finally arrived on the scene. By then the barbarians had razed much of the villages of Abonong and Ziyat, and stolen valuables including electronics, mattresses, food, and livestock.
The incident occurred just 24 hours after a two-day peace summit in Jos organized by the Christian Association of Nigeria with the theme, “Sustainable peace and security in Northern Nigeria as a panacea for development.”
A local lawyer, Dalyop Solomon Mwantiri, spoke with one of the three surviving children of the pastor, who was away at the University of Jos at the time of the attack and learned of it on Facebook.
“When I called a friend to find out about the situation, the report I received was very devastating,” the young man said. “I couldn’t believe that all my family members have been engulfed in the pogrom. On reaching home, I saw my daddy and younger ones burnt beyond recognition.”
“The three of us left don’t know what to do, especially now that we are still students who have nothing to hold on [to],” he said.
One witness, Mr. Gwom Pam Dusu, who works at a Roman Catholic Church in the area, said that local security had received information about an impending attack planned by Fulani barbarians and their hired mercenaries but failed to act.
Despite the information, “security personnel stationed at Bek of Foron District didn’t do anything to avert the terror attacks,” Mr. Gwom claimed.
Nathan Johnson, the regional manager for Africa of International Christian Concern, expressed astonishment over the government’s inaction in an area of continued inter-religious strife.
“The fact that the government allows the continued destruction and killing of its villages and citizens shows a lack of care or ability,” Mr. Johnson said. “If this continues, there will have to be international intervention or else Nigeria may devolve into a major civil war.”
A member of the House of Representatives, Istifanus Gyang, concurred in a statement accusing the federal government of complicity following the renewed attacks which came about two months after the slaughter of over 200 Christians by Fulani herdsmen.
“These attacks are coming at a time when the people are yet to recover from the massacre of over 200 persons in the same Barkin Ladi LGA with thousands of the displaced victims still languishing in Internally Displaced Persons camps,” Mr. Gyang said.
“The unfortunate thing is that the perpetrators of these attacks continue to execute their agenda with reckless abandon without an appropriate response by government!” he said.
Church leaders in Nigeria have said that Christians are experiencing “pure genocide” as 6,000 people, mostly women and children, have been murdered by Fulani Muslims since January.
“What is happening in Plateau state and other select states in Nigeria is pure genocide and must be stopped immediately,” said the Christian Association of Nigeria and church denominational heads in Plateau State in a press release last week.
The church leaders said that “over 6,000 persons, mostly children, women and the aged have been maimed and killed in night raids by armed Fulani herdsmen,” which is prompting their cry to the government of Nigeria “to stop this senseless and blood shedding in the land and avoid a state of complete anarchy where the people are forced to defend themselves.”
The press release also pleaded with the international community, as well as the United Nations, to intervene in the Fulani Muslim attacks, fearing they might spread to other countries as well.
“We are particularly worried at the widespread insecurity in the country where wanton attacks and killings by armed Fulani herdsmen, bandits and terrorists have been taking place on a daily basis in our communities unchallenged despite huge investments in the security agencies,” they added, saying President Muhammadu Buhari has failed to bring attackers to justice.
They referenced several mass-scale attacks this year, including the slaughter of over 200 people, mostly Christians, at the end of June in raids carried out by the herdsmen on local area farmers near the city of Jos.
Although some international news media has sought to characterize the killings as a land conflict between community groups, the church leaders, along with major persecution watchdog groups such as Open Doors USA and International Christian Concern, have all said that Christians are being deliberately targeted.
“We reject the narrative that the attacks on Christian communities across the country as ‘farmers/herdsmen clash.’ The federal government has been so immersed in this false propaganda and deceit while forcefully pushing the policy idea of establishing cattle ranches/colonies on the ancestral farming lands of the attacked communities for the Fulani herdsmen as the only solution to the problem,” the press release declared, accusing the government of also pushing such a narrative.
“How can it be a clash when one group is persistently attacking, killing, maiming, destroying; and the other group is persistently being killed, maimed and their places of worship destroyed? How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are hunting farmers in their own villages/communities and farmers are running for their lives?” the church leaders asked.
“How can it be a clash when the herdsmen are the predators and the inhabitant/indigenous farmers are the prey? Until we call a disease by its real name and causatives, it would be difficult to properly diagnose the disease for the right curative medications.”
There have been different reports on the number of Christians killed in Nigeria since the start of the year.
The International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, Intersociety, stated on Tuesday that a combined total of 1,750 Christians, along with non-Muslims, have been killed both by the Fulani herdsmen, and by Boko Haram radicals, who are a separate terror group.
Intersociety also warned of a genocide in its statement.
“Nigeria is drifting to [a path of] genocide through killing, maiming, burning and destruction of churches and other sacred places of worship, and forceful seizure and occupation of ancestral, worship, farming and dwelling lands of the indigenous Christians and other indigenous religionists in Northern Nigeria,” it said.
Roman Catholic Bishop William Avenya of Gboko separately told charity Aid to the Church in Need that the world cannot wait for a full-on genocide before deciding to intervene.
“Please don’t make the same mistake as was made with the genocide in Rwanda,” he pleaded, referring to the massacre of Tutsi people in Rwanda, where close to 1 million were killed in 1994.
“It happened beneath our noses, but no one stopped it. And we know well how that ended,” Avenya said.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
September 19th, 2018