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Pope Francis Calls for “fraternal, respectful dialogue” in CAR amid Disputed Election

MINUSCA peacekeepers securing the Headquarter of the National Elections Authority, the Central African institution in charge of the organization of the 2020-2021 elections.

Pope Francis has called on the warring parties in the Central African Republic (CAR) to seek a “fraternal” and “respectful dialogue” to resolve disputes arising from the disputed December 27 general elections.

In his Angelus address on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord on Wednesday, January 6, the Holy Father said that he is “following carefully and with preoccupation the events in the Central African Republic where elections recently took place in which the people have manifested the desire to pursue the path of peace.”

“I invite all of the parties to a fraternal, respectful dialogue, to reject any form of hatred and to avoid any form of violence,” Pope Francis said January 6.

The December 27 Presidential elections in CAR were held amid insecurity and political tensions.

Provisional results announced by CAR’s electoral commission Monday, January 4 show that President Touadera won, having secured 53.9 percent of the votes.

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Ahead of the polls, a coalition of armed rebel groups under the auspices of Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) launched an offensive. The December 19 move threatened to disrupt the presidential elections with the intention to “march to Bangui.” 

The threats are said to be in response to a rejection by the country’s constitutional court of the candidacy of the rebels' ally, ex-president François Bozizé who wanted to challenge President Touadera.

However, the rebels who are said to control two-thirds of the landlocked country have so far been barred from advancing to CAR capital, Bangui, by the military, UN peacekeepers and reinforcements from Russia and Rwanda.

A week after the elections, a Bishop ministering in the landlocked nation said the country’s population is living “in fear and anxiety” due to the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing confrontation between armed rebels and the military forces.

“The population lives in fear and anxiety about the uncertainty of what might happen the next day,” the Bishop of Bossangoa Diocese, Nestor-Désiré Nongo-Aziagbia said January 5.

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On Sunday, January 3, the diamond-rich city of Bangassou, which falls within the territory of the Catholic Diocese of Bangassou, fell into the hands of the rebels. This was a day after another assault on the city of Damara, the hometown of President Touadera.

"Yes, Bangassou has fallen into the hands of the rebels, many of whom are mercenaries and people from Niger,” Bishop Juan José Aguirre Muñoz of Bangassou confirmed the siege in a Monday, January 4 report.

Making reference to the events of Sunday, January 3 when the town was captured, Bishop Aguirre Muñoz added, “The morning was hectic. Heavy artillery from 5 in the morning with about thirty dead and wounded.”