AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - SLOW RETURN TO NORMALITY: MISSIONARIES PICK UP THE PIECES AT SACKED AND LOOTED MISSIONS

Wednesday, 7 May 2003

Bangui (Fides Service) – “The situation in Bangui is now stable” a Comboni missionary in the Central African Republic, who prefers for security reasons to remain anonymous, tells Fides Service. “Since Francois Bozize took power the sacking has stopped and a minimum of law and order has returned. However in the bush the situation is still dangerous. Bozize proclaimed himself president and immediately appointed provincial prefects but the state motor is having difficulty in starting because many infrastructures were damaged or destroyed by the war. Circulation on the roads of this vast country has resumed but in a still precarious situation, because of many bandit groups especially in isolated areas.”
“Missionaries are gradually returning to their mission after being forced to abandon them during the time of most intense combat” says the Comboni missionary “but they face enormous difficulties because many missions were sacked and looted, some completely destroyed. We were all greatly encouraged by a message which the Bishops issued to missionaries asking us to resume our work as soon as possible. The Bishops say missionaries are indispensable for the local communities and they offer total support to the great efforts made by the many different missionary congregations in the country”.
At the political level, President Bozize is negotiating the withdrawal of the Chad troops which helped him take power, while deployment of peace-keeping troops of the member countries of the Economic and Monetary Community of the countries of West Africa has begun.
“Bozize is also negotiating with France for a contingent of 2000 to 3000 men” local sources tell Fides Service. “France, which until 1998 had a large garrison here, might be persuaded to return to Central Africa, not least to obtain some control over the oil deposits along the Chad border, one of the prizes of the conflict”.
The crisis in Central African Republic broke on 25 October 2002 after an unsuccessful coup by former army chief Francois Bozize. After months of fighting, in March this year Bozize finally took power, exiling president Ange-Felix Patasse who fled to Togo. LM (Fides Service 7/5/2003 EM lines 32 Words: 367)


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