What on the surface looks like sectarian violence in CAR is a much more complex and far reaching conflict.
Armed men have kidnapped the Central African Republic (CAR) minister for sport and young people, according to his wife, prompting condemnation by the government.
Sunday’s kidnapping of Armel Ningatoloum Sayo, a former rebel chief, while he was returning from church in the capital Bangui was the first of a member of the government.
Nicaise Danielle Sayo, wife of Sayo, said she and her husband were returning from church on Sunday morning when the kidnappers stopped them.
Another source close to the family said that the kidnappers, who were travelling in a taxi, blocked Sayo’s car.
“Three men got out and fired into the air. The minister asked them ‘what’s the problem’ but they just indicated him to get into the taxi … then they left,” the source said.
Sayo is the former leader of the Revolution and Justice movement based in the country’s northeast, but he joined the government of Mahamat Kamoun after the signing of a peace agreement in July 2014.
No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.
Snatched and freed
On Monday, Claudia Priest, a French aid worker, was snatched by the country’s Christian anti-balaka militia and later freed. Priest, 67, who returned to France on Sunday, was kidnapped along with a local man.
A UN employee was also briefly detained by the anti-balaka the following day.
— Céline Schmitt (@Ce_Schmitt) January 24, 2015
CAR’s government condemned Sayo’s kidnapping as an act of “barbarism” by assailants aiming to to create instability.
Violence between rival factions has plunged the deeply impoverished country into an unprecedented political and security crisis, with a conflict that began in 2013 claiming thousands of lives.
The anti-balaka are a mainly Christian group formed to fight off attacks from the mostly Muslim fighters of the Seleka coalition. The Seleka seized power in March 2013 but were routed from Bangui in January last year.
Anti-balaka means “anti-machete” in the local Sango language and refers to the weapon of choice wielded by the Seleka – but also used up by the vigilantes.
Both groups have been accused of serious abuses against civilians.