In the Central African Republic (CAR), French troops are presiding over the purging and slaughter of Muslims by Christian militias.
French troops went into CAR in December last year, when the government collapsed. Then, around a thousand people had died and around a fifth of the population had fled their home.
In March 2013, power had been seized by a rebel militia, the Seleka, which had its roots in the more-Muslim north of the country. The Seleka were well-equipped with Chinese and Iranian-made weaponry and experts guessed they were backed by Chad or Sudan.
The Seleka overthrew unpopular incumbent, François Bozizé, and installed CAR’s first Muslim president, Michel Djotodia.
When Djotodia attempted to disarm the Seleka in September 2013, many of the militias refused, and veered out of his control, killing, looting and burning down villages.
Some within the majority Christian population formed a rival militia, the anti-balaka (“balaka” meaning machete in Sango, the local language), and the country further polarised along sectarian lines.
As the Seleka retreated to the north, where the repression of Christians continued, the anti-balaka have moved from village to village, killing Muslims and razing mosques.
According to the UN, while around 140,000 Muslims normally lived in the capital, Bangui, the population had been reduced to around 10,000 in December and now stands at under 1000.
Amnesty international has called what is happening in CAR “ethnic cleansing”, and is warning of a “Muslim exodus of historic proportions”. On 10 March the UN announced an investigation into reports of genocide
Muslims have turned against the interim Christian president, Catherine Samba-Panza, and are hostile to the French troops, who have done little to disarm the rival militias.
Bangui neighbourhoods such as PK5, where Muslim businesses once thrived, now resemble ghost towns. According to the Guardian, those attempting to escape another largely Muslim district, PK12, must face down Christian mobs.
Those left behind by the convoys of escapees risk being lynched, and in one incident, five children suffocated in an overcrowded truck and were not discovered to be dead until it arrived at the capital’s military airport.
Tens of thousands of people are currently squatting outside the international airport, fearful of returning home.