Wednesday, 21 January 2004

Bangui (Fides Service) - “Reactions were positive to the Bishops’ statement. The message was welcomed by both government and people” local Church sources in Bangui, Central African Republic told Fides. In a recent statement the Catholic Bishops denounced widespread violence and insecurity. “In this country the authorities and the people hold the Catholic Church in high esteem. And when the Bishops speak out on such serious facts they are listened to” the sources told Fides.
In the statement, issued at the end of a general assembly of the Bishops’ Conference held in Bangui 2 to 11 January, the Bishops denounce a situation of lawlessness: “in our towns, on our roads, in rural areas law is dictated by armed men in combat gear”.
The Central African Republic is trying with difficulty to find a way out of a period of instability since President François Bozizé, took power in March 2003 at the end of a civil war against former President Ange-Félix Patassé. The Church leaders say “like everyone else we thought we had seen the end of violence. But sadly this is not so and everyone, every day still has to face harassment, if not serious danger ”.
“With their statement the Bishops intend to encourage and support government efforts to restore order, local sources told Fides, But this is a slow process because the government has still to regain control over vast areas of the country. The situation of public order is relatively better in larger cities, compared to towns and villages ravaged by gangs of ruthless bandits ”
Since militia groups were disbanded, thousands of men still armed but without regular a job formed gangs. In addition to this, criminals coming in from neighbouring Sudan and Chad increase the situation of instability in Central Africa.
(L.M.) (Fides Service 21/1/2004, lines 31 words 354)

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