AFRICA/CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC - Massacre in Bangassou denounced by the Pope: local Bishop condemns ‘trigger-happy’ UN troops

Thursday, 10 August 2017 massacres   un   armed groups  

Bangui (Agenzia Fides)- “The massacre in Central Africa Republic in Gambo, a village 70 km from Bangassou, was even mentioned yesterday by the Holy Father” the local Bishop Juan José Aguirre of Muños, Bangassou, underlined in his report to Fides on the incident. Indeed at the end of his general Wednesday audience yesterday 9 Pope Francis said. “I was deeply saddened by the news of the slaughter perpetrated last Sunday in Nigeria, inside a church, where innocent people were killed” he was referring to the massacre inside St Philip’s Catholic church in Ozubulu (see Fides 7/8/2017). The Pope added “And regrettably we have just heard of homicidal violence in the Central African Republic against the local Christian community. I firmly desire the end of all forms of hatred and violence and that such shameful crimes, perpetrated in a place of worship where the faithful gather to pray, may never be repeated. Let us think of our brothers and sisters in Nigeria and Central African Republic. Let us pray together for them a Hail Mary” the Pope then paused to pray with the people present for the Audience, due to great heat in Rome, being held inside the Paul VI Audience Hall.
“Several tens of people were shot dead in Gambo on 4 and 5 August ” Bishop Aguirre tells us. “It all began when Anti Balaka militia (Anti-balaka Christian militia groups formed in that country following the rising to power of Michel Djotodia in 2013 NDR ) attacked Gambo, which for the past four years has been in the hands of so called ex-Seleka. More recently the Seleka increased attacks on the local people, women in particular, many abducted from their homes in front of their husbands and later raped. On 4 August Anti Balaka entered Gambo to oust the Seleka”. “From what I have been told – said the Bishop – as soon as the Anti Balaka arrived, troops of the MINUSCA UN Mission there immediately opened fire. Reportedly the Anti Balaka then opened fire on the UN military who in turn in an exaggerated reaction, fired wildly hitting civilians as well. The Anti Balaka were forced to take cover in the forest, while the Seleka, back in Gambo finding a Red Cross Team in the hospital holding a meeting, preceded to slit the throats of all present, men women and children”.
“So the massacre, by the Seleka, was triggered by the reaction out of all proportion of the MINUSCA UN troops who when attacked usually do have a violent reaction. They are trigger-happy” the Bishop denounced. “I know of a young seminarian and his father killed by stray bullets coming from MINUSCA mission soldiers. This is all deeply saddening”. “Then I ask myself why, once Gambo had been saved from the Anti Balaka, did the UN MINUSCA leavethe people in the hands of the Seleka?” Bishop Aguirre continued. “These so called Peace Keeping Troops whose job is to disarm all the factions in the country, did forcefully disarm the Anti Balaka but not the Seleka who appear more heavily armed than ever. Here is a sense of complicity which we fail to understand ” concludes the Bishop. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 10/8/2017)