Total Pageviews

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Social Media Dispatches: Death and Destruction in Central African Republic

Raw footage from The Associated Press showing Muslims fleeing violence in the Central African Republic on Friday.

Witnesses have been documenting the violence in the Central African Republic over the past few days, with relentless slaughter and traces of entire communities wiped out as thousands of Muslims fled their homes to escape retaliatory attacks.

The killings gained pace against Muslims seen as supporting a Muslim rebel group that seized power last year and ruled through January and was widely blamed for atrocities on Christians.

The emergency director of Human Rights Watch, Peter Bouckaert, has been tracking the violence on the ground, sending out a constant stream of updates on his Twitter account, @bouckap, which reads like a narrative of a dying nation. On Tuesday, he made a reference to international forces’ intervening in a lynching.

Over the weekend, Rwandan peacekeepers intervened to halt an attack on Muslims, shooting and killing a member of a crowd that had killed two people in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, a Rwandan military spokesman said, according to Reuters. In that weekend alone, nine people were killed in interreligious violence, according to residents quoted by the news agency.

The presence of several thousand French and African Union troops has largely failed to stem the bloodshed. The United Nations High Commissioner for refugees expressed concern in a statement on Tuesday that there was the feeling that the killing could go on without fear of punishment, especially as seen in recent actions of the anti-Balaka Christian militia.

“Particularly worrying is the climate of complete impunity in the country, illustrated most glaringly by public statements from anti-Balaka elements claiming responsibility for the crimes and murders they have committed,” said Rupert Colville, a spokesman. “Such brazen admissions are furthering the culture of impunity and encouraging more people to resort to violence.”

Witnesses have been chronicling the exodus of large numbers of the Muslim community in the Central African Republic, including Thomas Fessy of the BBC, as they fled retaliation and destruction of their neighborhoods.

The photographer Marcus Bleasdale has chronicled the exodus, as has Joanne Mariner, a crisis response official for Amnesty International, which will release a report on Wednesday on its evidence of ethnic cleansing in the Central African Republic. Both posted updates on the expanding retaliations and anti-Muslim sentiment.

Mr. Bouckaert also followed the remaining traces of Muslim neighborhoods as their community fled.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.