AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICA - Still two thousand Muslim refugees in the diocese of Bangassou; testimony of the Bishop to Fides

Tuesday, 30 May 2017 armed groups   bishops  

Bangui (Agenzia Fides) - "Two thousand Muslims still find themselves in the Catholic mission. A part in the Minor Seminary, the others in the Cathedral and in the Bishop’s House", says to Agenzia Fides His Exc. Mgr. Juan José Aguirre Muños, Bishop of Bangassou, the city in the south-east of the Central African Republic attacked in past days by a group of anti-Balak militants (see Fides 17/5/2017). "These people are threatened by the anti Balaka who had entered the city in recent days, attacking the Muslim neighborhood in Bangassou, killing, plundering, and hunting its inhabitants, whose homes were burned".
"There are two emergencies that we must face: security and humanitarian aid", says the Bishop. "What worries most is the lack of security. We are exposed to sudden attacks. On Sunday, May 28, I was going to the Democratic Republic of Congo for a Mass with a Central African refugee group when near the Oubangui river bank a woman with five children, who wanted to reunite with her husband, was kidnapped and then killed by a group of men. A brutal attack in which even three-year-olds lost their lives", says Mgr. Aguirre. "In Bangassou there is a contingent of Blue Helmets of MINUSCA (UN Mission in Central Africa), but it is not very effective".
As for the humanitarian aspect, Archbishop Aguirre reports that "there are some NGOs that are helping us to deal with a complicated situation. We had to accommodate two thousand people in the Seminary in only 5 minutes. It was a kind of human tsunami. The creation of a well-equipped reception camp to move these people is being taken into consideration".
Archbishop Aguirre, who has negotiated with anti Balaka, explains that the assault "is a reaction to the presence of two well-armed groups of Seleka (Muslim rebellion, ndr.) who at the end of last year clashed with each other. Some of these attacked the diocese, civilians and committed serious crimes, including sexual abuse. There are perhaps three thousand anti Balaka and, although poorly armed compared to Seleka, they are very violent and determined. The anti Balaka, born in reaction to the violence suffered by the Seleka, have become criminals, equal or even worse to their enemies".
"The root cause of the clash is not religious but political. There are neighboring States that feed the two contenders in order to be able to better dominate Central Africa", concludes Mgr. Aguirre. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 30/5/2017)