Tuesday, 2 September 2003

Abidjan (Fides Service)- “We still live a situation of war, despite the peace agreements and the setting up of the national unity government” a missionary in Korhogo, in northern Ivory Coast, reports to Fides Service. “It is exactly one year now that the north of the country has been under control of the rebels of the Patriotic Movement of Ivory Coast” he adds. “Everything is blocked, very few vehicles are seen on the roads, people have no money because the banks are closed and many have lost their jobs ”.
“The cease fire which has lasted for several months is now threatened” the missionary says. “After the mid August killing of two French soldiers members of the interposition contingent and the discovery of a plan to assassinate President Gbagbo, signals of war are multiplying. Tension is in the air. We all fear hostilities will resume even more virulent than ever because the warring parties have had time to rearm”.
In this difficult situation the missionaries continue their work of evangelisation and assistance. “We manage to carry on with our pastoral activities and catechesis” the missionary says “even though it means considerable personal sacrifice also on the part of priests no longer young. I myself must ride between 30 and 60 km on a small motorbike to say mass in villages without a priest. Bikes are the only means we can use, anything better would be immediately stolen.”.
Ivory Coast has lived a situation of tension since last September when, following an unsuccessful coup, the north and the west of the country fell under the control of a series of different rebels movements. Fighting between forces loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo and rebels continued for several months until a cease fire was declared and a peace agreement reached (signed in France in January) which included the establishment of a national unity government formed of members of the President’s party and the parties of the rebels. However the new government has been blocked by a dispute over the appointment of Defence and Internal ministers. At the end of August the discovery of a plan to kill President Gbagbo increased the tension. About 50 people, including two army generals were arrested on charges of being involved in the plot. The French police also arrested 11 men, most of them mercenaries, suspected of supporting the coup in Ivory Coast. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides (2/9/2003 lines 36 words 481)