, 21 December, 2020 / 4:05 PM
Ahead of general elections slated to take place Sunday, December 27, Bishops in the Central African Republic (CAR) have, in a collective statement, cautioned against political alliances comprising armed groups.
In their Saturday, December 19 statement shared with ACI Africa, the members of the Central African Episcopal Conference (CECA) urge the government to prioritize “dialogue and national consensus in strict compliance with the constitutional order.”
“We, the Bishops of the Central African Republic, condemn any politico-military alliances aimed at destabilizing the democratic system, paralyzing socio-political and economic life and damaging the peace and well-being of the Central African people,” CECA members say.
The Bishops “vehemently denounce” what they describe as “game of interests,” which, the say, aims “at protecting and increasing the geostrategic and economic interests of the great powers to the detriment of the Central African people.”
“The Church values the democratic system, as a system that ensures the participation of citizens in political choices and guarantees the governed the possibility of choosing and controlling their rulers, or replacing them peacefully when appropriate,” CECA members say.
The Bishops’ caution is based on tense moments that have characterized CAR ahead of the presidential and legislative vote on December 27 with leaders of the opposition parties expressing the fear that there will be massive electoral fraud, France 24 reported.
On Sunday, December 20, CAR’s main opposition coalition demanded the postponement of the December 27 poll citing violence by armed groups outside Bangui, the country’s capital, Reuters has reported, adding that the government has insisted that the election will proceed as scheduled.
On December 19, the leaders of the three main armed rebel groups occupying large areas in CAR announced a coalition saying, in a statement, “We have decided to combine all of our movements into a single entity, called the Coalition of Patriots for Change or CPC, under a unified command.”
In the statement, the three groups invite “all other armed groups to join.”
The government, on its part, says the country's former president, Francois Bozize, is planning a coup in the lead-up to the polls.
The UN mission in the country, MINUSCA, has deployed troops to disperse rebel militants who had taken control of roads leading to the capital.
In their December 19 collective statement, CECA members highlight some of the challenges ahead of the elections saying, “As the country prepares for the grouped elections of 27 December 2020, the election campaign, which opened on 12 December 2020, is struggling to take off. Many candidates are unable to return to their constituencies. As a result, the security situation in the interior of the country is increasingly deteriorating.”
“More and more people are now fleeing from the interior of the country to Bangui, now living in the fear of a possible armed attack,” The Bishops further say in their collective statement signed by CECA Chairman, Bishop Nestor-Désiré Nongo Aziagbia.
Expressing their concerns about the insecurity in the country, the members of CECA pose a series of questions, “What is the point of all these tensions: to create unrest in the country? To disrupt the ongoing electoral process? To take power by force of arms? Shed the innocent blood of the Central African people? Destroy the little that has been rebuilt?”
“Is our country still going to suffer a coup d'etat supported in a veiled way by the indifference or complicit inaction of those who can do something to stop it and save lives? What can we expect from the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the African Union, and the United Nations?” the Bishops further pose.
They continue, “Is this already the Franco-Russian proxy war in the Central African Republic announced since October 2020 by the report of the American NGO, The Sentry, specialized in the investigation of war criminals and corruption in Africa and co-directed by the actor George Clooney?”
They express the conviction that CAR citizens desire peace and addressed themselves to the stakeholders in the electoral process.
They call on the government to “implement the Integrated Security Plan for the elections signed on 2 October 2020 in Bangui in open collaboration with MINUSCA and give priority to dialogue and national consensus in strict compliance with the constitutional order.”
The members of CECA invite politicians to “facilitate the smooth running of the electoral process in the interest of the Central African people.”
They urge the armed groups to “drop their weapons, renounce all acts of violence against the civilian population and candidates in the presidential and legislative elections, and the seizure of power by force.”
CECA members demand that those fueling conflict in the country by sponsoring armed groups “give the Central African people breathing space.”
“Instead of giving us instruments of death and teaching us how to do evil, let us instead set up agricultural, technical, and vocational schools where young people will be trained to contribute in a more humane way to the reconstruction of our nation,” the Bishops in CAR say.
They invite the youth to “refuse to be recruited into armed groups; instead, be actors for peace and development.”
The members of CECA call on women in CAR to “make your voices as mothers heard again in a context of crisis, to call your sons and daughters to their senses. Continue to be educators and promoters of non-violence in your different living environments.”
They invite the Christian communities to “watch and pray for peace.”
“May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Prince of Peace, protect us from all evil and guide our steps on the path of peace,” the members of CECA implore in their December 19 statement shared with ACI Africa.
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Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa