CENTRAL AFRICA – Violence, pandemic, foreign interference: the nation without peace
An armed group has taken up arms again in the Central African Republic and is bringing back tension in the Bozoum region in the west of the Country. The emergency is added to the spread of the coronavirus and to the ever stronger interference of foreign nations in local politics and society. This is the picture traced to Fides by Father Aurelio Gazzera, a Carmelite who has been a missionary for years in Central Africa.
It is since 2013, when the Seleka militias brought down President François Bozizé, that the nation has been in strong instability. “Religion has been used in an instrumental way – continues Father Gazzera -. For militia leaders it is a useful means to incite the militiamen, almost all very young, poor and poorly educated, against their opponents. Coexistence, we can say without being denied, has been exacerbated by commanders and politicians. ”
Pope Francis’ visit to Bangui in 2015 put a temporary stop to the violence. His presence led to a rapprochement of the parties in conflict and to more peace agreements. However, the signatures on the documents did not stop the violence.
“In recent days – the missionary continues – a group of rebels rejected the agreements of Khartoum (signed in 2019 traced a road map towards peace) and took up arms again. The militiamen attacked a military camp. We feared that they would try to plunder Bozoum. Luckily they did not get this far and the city was saved”. These rebels are linked to the Peul ethnic shepherds. “The area of Bozoum – says Father Aurelio – is inhabited by farmers who with great effort cultivate the land around the villages. Periodically herds of grazing beasts invade their land destroying all or part of the crop. When farmers try to claim their rights, militants intervene in a spiral of violence that seems to be endless”.
In this context, coronavirus is rapidly spreading. The cases have exceeded 1,950. “At the beginning of the epidemic – the missionary continues – the government immediately closed the airports, but they left the roads open, especially those that connect Central Africa and Cameroon (where there are more than nine thousand cases). Contagions have probably spread from there. Health authorities have increased swabs, but the facilities are absolutely insufficient: 150 beds for Covid-19 across the country. Few”.
The Catholic Church has activated an international solidarity network which, thanks to the Italian Caritas, the Italian Bishops’ Conference and the US Caritas, has allowed the arrival of protective material and has encouraged the training of animators who are sent to the villages to raise awareness amnong the communities.
Foreign interference in the Country also continues. They are increasingly cumbersome presences in pursuit of mineral (gold, iron, uranium, diamonds) and natural (precious wood) riches. “Until a few weeks ago – concludes the Carmelite priest – in our area there were Chinese companies that extracted gold from the water. Then they left the area. The environmental damage caused by their action is still significant. For some time now there are also the Russians, protected by the mercenaries of the Wagner Group. They are increasingly strong and influential. They even support press campaigns against the European Union that had organized an airlift to bring aid. In Central Africa the situation remains very delicate and unstable”. (EC) (Agenzia Fides, 18/6/2020)