, 27 July, 2020 / 8:19 PM
Bishops in the Central African Republic (CAR) have, at the end of their weeklong Ordinary Plenary Assembly, expressed their concerns about the general elections slated to take place December 27.
In their collective statement shared with ACI Africa Monday, July 27, the members of the Central African Episcopal Conference (CECA) highlight a number of challenges, including insecurity, respecting the time frame of the polls, bad roads, and cases of fraud in the registration exercise and call for stakeholder consultations.
“We note that the country continues to face a serious problem of insecurity that raises uncertainties and questions about the holding of elections by the end of December 2020. There is a real problem with the free movement of weapons of all calibres, which hinders the free movement of goods and persons,” the Bishops say in their statement dated Sunday, July 26.
“Some areas are still under the control of armed gangs,” they further say.
Against the backdrop of the challenge of insecurity in their country, the members of CECA probe, “Will all candidates be able to move freely in their constituencies during the election campaign? Will voters be able to cast their ballots freely?”
They continue, “Given the advanced degradation of roads, will election materials be delivered in time to the most remote areas? Will the Electoral Commission (ANE) be able to cover the whole of the national territory within the given time frame?”
“Suspicions of forged documents and dysfunctions threaten the current voter registration phase,” the Bishops also say in their collective statement signed by CECA Chairman, Bishop Nestor-Désiré Nongo Aziagbia.
“We, your pastors, respectful of the decisions taken by the competent authorities, nevertheless express our concerns about the organization of the forthcoming elections in view of the difficulties related to the time frame defined in the electoral calendar,” the Bishops say.
As a way forward, the Catholic Church Leaders who held their second Ordinary Plenary Assembly for the year 2019-2020 at the Secretariat of their conference in CAR’s capital Bangui, call for stakeholder consultations.
“For the forthcoming elections, consultation with a view to reaching a consensus appears to be a necessary factor for success and social cohesion,” they say.
They add in reference to consultations, “This would make it possible to continue the electoral process, rebuild trust among the main stakeholders, and forge a strong bond of partnership and complementarity among all.”
“We must build our country together by putting people at the heart of the sustainable development project,” the Bishops say.
In their collective statement titled “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me,” the Catholic Church leaders in CAR invite their country’s leadership to find inspiration in the leader who facilitated the freedom of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.
“The example of Moses, who recognized in humility that he alone cannot carry the burden of the people, should inspire us to unite our forces for the well-being of the Central African people,” the Prelates say.
“The fundamental mission of the Church is the preservation of peace,” the Bishops of the landlocked country say, adding that on the basis of this peace mission, “we have the responsibility to accompany the electoral process.”
“It is not our responsibility to say who the candidates will be, nor to proclaim the winner or the loser of the election,” they clarify and “appeal to the responsibility and the spirit of consensus of all stakeholders for a peaceful and accepted election.”
For them, “Actions that are detrimental to the electoral process should be avoided. Any recourse to violence as an expression of demand is to be prohibited.”
During their weeklong meeting, the Bishops also deliberated about COVID-19 pandemic that has infected at least 4,599 people in CAR including 1,546 patients who have recovered and 59 others who have succumbed to the disease.
“We have certainly adhered to preventive measures by closing schools, reducing the number of those attending Mass to 15, suspending the activities of movements, fraternities and prayer groups, as well as the celebration of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage and Funeral,” the members of CECA say.
They continued, “We organized sensitization sessions through rural, local and community radio stations. We encouraged the faithful to pray in families and to follow Mass on the radio.”
That some people in the country doubt the existence of the coronavirus is regrettable, the Bishops say, and express their solidarity with those who have been adversely affected by the restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the disease including those who have lost their jobs.
They go on to express their appreciation for the help the leadership of their country has received from other nations in tacking the pandemic and encourage the multiplying of “acts of solidarity with coronavirus victims and vulnerable people.”
The Bishops also express their solidarity with “the suffering of the sick and the bereaved families” and caution against forgetting “other pathologies such as HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Diabetes, Tuberculosis, Measles.”
“Let us mobilize to fight more effectively against the coronavirus pandemic. Let us create the necessary conditions for the exercise of civil and political rights and for a better adherence of all the Central African people to a democratic electoral process,” the members of CECA say in their collective letter.
They add, “Let us work together for structural changes in our society for our social, economic, political and religious liberation and to build the new Central African Republic willed by God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
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