A Bozoum Christian widow stands next to her destroyed home.
A Bozoum Christian widow stands next to her destroyed home. (Courtesy Open Doors International)


In December 2012, five predominantly Muslim rebel groups formed the Séléka alliance in the northeast of the Central African Republic. They marched to the capital, overtaking major towns and raining misery upon all they encountered. They captured the capital, Bangui, in March 2013, and ousted President Francois Bozizé.

Then the coalition fell apart, leaving the country at the mercy of warlords and militia, who sowed chaos and anarchy and turned CAR into a failed state. Christians were specifically targeted with assault, looting, rape, and murder. Local Muslims often sided with the Séléka rebels.

The crisis entered a second phase in September 2013, when self-defence groups named “anti-Balaka” emerged, comprised mostly of animists, though some among them self-identified as Christian. Instead of protecting their own, they perpetrated the same atrocities as Séléka and escalated insecurity.

Although the Séléka rebels did not espouse a formal Islamic agenda, their atrocities were committed with help of people who rallied to Séléka after its leader, Michael Djotodia, sought money and manpower from the Organisation of Islamic Conference, and the Islamic Committee, which consist of Muslims from Chad and CAR.

A UN-led international peacekeeping force, and the installation of an interim president, had helped restore a semblance of security in the cities, but elections originally scheduled for October were postponed when violence flared around Bangui.