Much of Central African Republic remains under control of Seleka militants three years after they seized power

Not only does two-thirds of the country remain under Seleka control, but they … can act at any time,” a local Christian leader told Barnabas as Central African Republic (CAR) approaches the third anniversary of the militant group’s coup d’état.

The continued power of the Seleka militants was evident once again on 15 March when one of the group’s leaders, Abdoulaye Hissen, was freed from the prison cell in which he had been detained only hours earlier, after heavily armed Seleka fighters descended on the police building where he was being held and apparently took him back with them to the mainly Muslim 5th district of capital city Bangui.

Abdoulaye Hissen was due to appear before the judge the following day for questioning regarding his involvement in the violence that erupted late last September after Muslims attacked a mainly Christian neighbourhood of Bangui, killing as many as 200 people and forcing thousands to flee their homes in fear.

It was on 24 March 2013 that Seleka militants overran Bangui and seized power, following a three-month uprising. The following day, the group’s leader, Michel Djotodia, suspended the constitution, announced the dissolution of the National Assembly, and said that he intended to rule by decree. However, he was forced to resign on 10 January 2014. The seizure of power by the Seleka Islamic militants in March 2013 was the first time that Islamists managed to gain control of a Muslim minority country.

Newly elected Faustin-Archange Touadéra is set to be sworn in as President of Christian-majority CAR later this month. Mr Touadéra is a Christian and served as prime minister under previous president François Bozizé between 2008 and 2013. Ever since President Bozizé was ousted by the Seleka in 2013, the country has been engulfed in a violent conflict.

After months of killings, raping, and looting by Muslim Seleka, militant anti-balaka (meaning anti-AK47 rifle bullets in French) groups launched counter-attacks, intensifying the conflict. Anti-balaka misleadingly call themselves a Christian militia, but CAR churches strongly condemn their violent agenda.

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