BANGUI — Thousands of Christians have sought refuge at the Central African Republic’s (CAR) airport, fleeing violence from mostly Muslim ex-rebels.
The French military, which controls the Bangui airport, guarded the area as the Christians sought safety from Seleka soldiers with machetes and guns. The UN Security Council had passed a motion last week to allow the French to protect civilians in the country from the violence, which is considered to be the worst the nation has seen since March.
Troops told reporters that approximately 2,000 Central Africans took refuge at the airport— and that most, if not all, were Christian.
The large gathering of Christians laid out their mats as closely to the runway as possible near the barbed wire fencing. Dead bodies could be seen on the other side of the fence.
“They are slaughtering us like chickens,” one of the Christians, Appolinaire Donoboy, told the Associated Press.
“We are angry,” said Yves Wayina, who escaped with his wife and six children.
“The Muslims should go back where they came from. France must come and rapidly deploy and do everything possible to save us,” he added, adding that he was unsure if he would ever return to live among Muslims because of the violence.
Vakap, a small village in the country, was among those attacked by Seleka soldiers.
“They took everything they could or destroyed it; for what?” Badenga Fidele, the village headman, told reporters. “Now we have no protection. No army. No police. African peacekeepers came out here one afternoon last week, but what can they do?”
Central African Republic President Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, states that his residence has also been looted and vandalized amid the fighting. In an effort to prevent violence against Christians, he broadcast a dusk-to-dawn curfew that would keep citizens off the streets.
In a recent speech, Djotodia also explained that the French forces were not in the Central African Republic favor one side or the other, but merely to help prevent the ongoing violence, which has claimed at least 400 lives so far in the past week.
U.S. State Department has stated that it is “deeply concerned” about the fighting in the country, but applauded the French military for its intervention. But the president of Guinea said that although he was “appreciative” of France’s assistance, it was a “humiliation for Africa that 50 years afterward [after independence], we are not able to manage our problems ourselves.”
According to the UN, children are being forced to fight, and are increasingly victims of the ongoing violence in the Central African Republic.