AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICA - Are there economic interests of "strong men" behind the assaults of Peuls shepherds?

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Bangui (Agenzia Fides) - The situation in Bocaranga, 120 km north of Bozoum, in the northwest of the Central African Republic remains very tense after the attack on February 2 carried out by armed groups of Peuls shepherds (see Fides 06/02/2017). "I was told that yesterday people ran away because they feared another attack of Peuls", says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Aurelio Gazzera, Carmelite parish priest in Bozoum. "Last week Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga, Archbishop of Bangui paid a visit here in Bozoum, then we accompanied him to Bocaranga to meet the local population who are worn out" says the missionary.
The Peuls are itinerant shepherds who on several occasions clash with populations during their migrations. The phenomenon, however, has taken a worrying turn in recent years, not only in Central Africa but also in other African Countries, such as Nigeria, where they are known as Fulani (see Fides 17/01/2017). "In the case of Central Africa – explains Fr. Aurelio - no one knows where the Peuls come from. There are some Central Africans, others come from Chad and others from Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon".
"The Bocaranga area, where grass grows all year round, has been for many years a breeding area, an economic activity in which generals and politicians not only Central Africans but mainly Chadians and Cameroonians have invested. So there are strong interests to ensure that this area is inhabited mostly by Peuls rather than by farmers. We are talking about people who have made major economic investments: 10 to 20,000 head of cattle. It is a phenomenon that we have seen already since 2013 when we saw huge herds arrive from the north, probably from Chad and Cameroon", says the missionary.
"The issue of transhumance is an important factor in many areas of Africa, but it is often ignored in analyzing the tension that this causes. In the case of Bocaranga we fear that the situation will remain difficultfor a long time", says the missionary. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 02/03/2017)