AFRICA/ CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - Tension in Bangui due to student protests and presence of Haiti’s ousted President Aristide

Friday, 5 March 2004

Bangui (Fides Service)- “Students and teachers stage protests demanding payment of salaries and study grants regularly, every two or three months” local Church sources in Bangui capital of the Central African Republic told Fides with regard to clashes between students and police in Bangui yesterday, 4 March. “However yesterday’s protest was more violent than usual: the student threw stones and the police responded with tear gas. However now the situation is calm” the sources told Fides. “However these repeated demonstrations affect the regular holding of school and university classes and the government has shown no signs of listening to the demands of the students and teaching staff”.
“One solution would be to revise the study grant system which is not always transparent and grants are usually assigned with the intention of training state workers. In fact, in exchange for the study grant the student commits himself to working for the state for at least 5 years. But the problem is that there are no vacancies in public administration and that students are training for jobs which are not available. The system of state education grants should be revised and should reward deserving students who cannot afford school and university fees ”.
In the meantime, there is growing tension in the country since the arrival of ousted Haiti president Aristide. “From his place of exile in another country, former Central African President Patasse announced that he and Aristide are victims of the same plot concocted by the great world powers” local sources told Fides. “Thank goodness Patasse has no supporters left in the country and little attention was given to his announcement. But the presence of Aristide is giving rise to a debate on the international position of Central Africa, also in the light of the fact that President Bozize took power with force”. On 15 March 2003 Patasse was overthrown when troops led by President Bozize, took the capital Bangui. With difficulty the country is recovering from months of civil war and also the local Church after missions were destroyed and in some cases missionaries had to move to safer places. Presently the Church is reactivating her structures and reopening her pastoral activities especially in the northern area most affected by the fighting, (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 5/3/2004, righe 33 parole 417)