Aleteia

The Suffering Church in the Central African Republic

Pierre Holtz/UNICEF
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Bishop Nestor Desiré Nogo Aziagbia of the Diocese of Bossangoa, Central African Republic asks for prayers and support for his people.

A letter by Bishop Nestor Desiré Nogo Aziagbia of the Diocese of Bossangoa, Central African Republic


Dear friends,

The Central African Republic just celebrated the first anniversary of the rebellion started by the Seleka coalition—seleka meaning alliance or pact in Sango, the national language.

What a strange and sad anniversary, you say! Certainly, the change promised by these hawkers of illusion has been nothing but trials and tribulations for the suffering people of the Central African Republic. They have suffered the worst: rape, assassination and murder, kidnapping and ransom demands, destruction of property, the theft of cows, destruction of farmland, the burning of houses and villages, vandalism of government buildings, the annihilation of historical memory through the destruction of communal records, the pillaging and ransacking of practically all Church structures, the desecration of churches, extortion of all kinds. It is a sinister picture. Desolation is everywhere. This banditry has gotten even worse now that these scoundrels operate openly. The rebels have adopted military ranks which they display with arrogance and great pride.

That is the context of our present life in the Diocese of Bossangoa. Numerous extortions and human rights violations have pushed some of our people to revolt; the violence has led them to organize themselves in order to fight back and to demand justice in the face of Seleka abuses. This has led to the creation of self-defense units called anti-balaka (anti-machetes.) Such militia first appeared in the late 90s in the north-west of the country. They fought against bandits terrorizing the highways, known as zaraguina. These militia were also active in the battle against the Houda and Mbara tribes. These guardians of Tchadian cattle armed with kalashnikovs did not respect any humanitarian corridors, and let their cattle graze on the land of farmers. They did not hesitate to use their weapons to kill, set houses on fire and destroy entire villages at the slightest resistance of farmers. The weakness of our failing state added to the tension and violence throughout the region.

Military clashes between the seleka and anti-balaka always end up in suffering for the civilian population. It is part of the criminal logic of both parties. The Christian and Muslim communities also got caught up and became de facto victims of these angels of death. We have to absolutely get away from the unhappy tendency to lump the anti-balaka together with Christian movements and to identify the seleka with the Muslims. In fact, not all anti-balaka are Christians and not all Christians are anti-balaka. The same is true for the seleka and the muslims.

This logic of reprisal and counter reprisals has sent many people hiding in the bush, hurt and killed a great many, led to the destruction of possessions (fields, cattle, homes, harvests…), and caused enormous displacement. The image of 35,000 displaced people in the Diocese of Bossangoa has made headlines around the world. This number has gone up in the wake of the renewed outbreak of violence on Dec. 5, 2013. The city has been reduced to two centers: the chancellery where some 50,000 people are holed up and the Liberty School that currently houses 8,000 displaced Muslims. It is not mentioned enough, but the situation is more or less the same in Bouca where 3500 people have sought shelter in a mission station.

The origin of this humanitarian crisis in de Prefecture of Ouham is particularly political. Under the pretext of battling (ousted President) Franois Bozize, the regime in Bangui wants to strangle an entire population, crushing any kind of grand plan for the country. How else can we explain the equivocation and the slow response by the government to the crisis in Bossangoa and Bouca? Without being polemical, I simply note that the response was a lot faster in the case of Bangassou, Bouar and Mongoumba. Despite numerous appeals I have made, government leaders have not stopped deceiving us and making false promises, while coming up with all manner of excuses for their lethargic response. It is very clear that the people of Ouham are condemned to the catacombs. Their one sin is to belong to the region where Bozize came from.

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