The violence against Muslims by the Christian Anti-Balaka militia in the Central African Republic bears uncanny hallmarks of genocide.
The situation as it is in CAR has been likened to what happened in Rwanda twenty years ago, ironically at the time the world is commemorating the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi.
And, with the majority of people in our region being Christians, it has not failed being noticed that the Anti-Balaka militants are purportedly adherents of the Christian faith.
The other day, over a drink at my favourite joint, some observed that violence can be Christian or Muslim considering what Anti-Balaka are doing on the one hand, and the Somalia’s al-Shabaab or the Nigerian Boko Haram on the other.
Violence is violence. It has nothing to do with religion, and is indiscriminate in violating our very humanity.
You may label perpetrators with whichever religious name, but it does not fail to assault our humanity, resolutely provoking our collective urge to stop or prevent it, as the African Union and the UN are currently struggling to do so in South Sudan or CAR.
It is the same even when the perpetrators appear to give their murderous incursions religious overtones, of which Rwanda provides grim example, when the genocidaires gave their insurgencies somewhat religious war-cries.
It will be recalled how the genocidaire Forces Armee Rwandaise (ex-FAR) and Interahamwe militia began making armed incursions into Rwanda from the Kivu region in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire) beginning 1995.
They called these incursions “opérations”, with the earliest being Opération Insecticide to symbolise their determined extermination of the ‘Inyenzi’.
“In the ideological absurdity of the insurgents,” as detailed in the book, The Resilience of a Nation: A History of the Military in Rwanda, this would be followed by two Opérations Alléluia in 1997 and 1998, and by Opérations Amen and Odyssey in 1999 and 2000, respectively.
Others included Opération Oracle du Seigneur in 2001, followed by Opérations Trompête and Tabara in 2003 and Opération la Fronde (sling) in 2004 .
“[N]ote the Christian insinuation of the genocidal attacks with the names given to the murderous insurgency operations; i.e., Alleluia, Amen, Oracle du Seigneur (Oracle of the Lord), Trompête (suggesting Joshua’s trumpet as he entered Jericho in the Old Testament), and la Fronde (evoking David’s defeat of Goliath with the deadly sling).”
Back to Anti-Balaka. “Balaka” is a word for machete among the Sango of CAR. Thus “Anti-balaka” means “anti-machete” or “invincible”, a power purportedly bestowed by the charms that hang around the necks of many of the members.
The term gained currency around 2008 and 2009, when it was applied to self-defence units set up to protect communities from attacks by bandits or cattle raiders.
In the meantime, several rebel groups joined forces under the banner of the Seleka (“alliance” in Sango) who overturned the CAR government in March 2013, but were disbanded in September of the same year after committing widespread atrocities, including killings, large-scale arson and rape.
Most Seleka members were Muslim, mainly because Islam is the more prevalent religion in the marginalised northern areas where rebel groups sprang up.
For this reason the Muslims, most with no connection to the rebels, continue to be targeted in reprisals by Anti-Balaka.
No matter who the genocidal militants are, the UN, and the International community at large, must make haste to stop the massacres. It is the least we can do as the world continues to commemorate the Rwandan tragedy.
The writer is a commentator on local and regional issues