Insecurity in CAR Bars Three Bishops from Accessing Bangui for Plenary Meeting

President Faustin-Archange Touadéra greets crowds in CAR’s capital city, Bangui.

The rising insecurity in the Central African Republic (CAR) has prevented three Bishops from their colleagues for the first annual Plenary Assembly taking place in the country’s capital, Bangui, a source in the country has told ACI Africa.

Bishops Juan-José Aguirre Muñoz of the Diocese of Bangassou, Mirosław Gucwa of CAR’s Bouar Diocese, and Guerrino Perin of Mbaiki Diocese have been unable to attend the January 9-18 plenary session due to “threat on the population because of presence of rebels,” a source told ACI Africa Wednesday, January 13.

“Today, the Bishops could not have their meeting because of attacks on Bangui,” the source further said, making reference to attacks of CAR’s capital by rebel forces.

On January 13, rebel forces in CAR launched two attacks on the outskirts of the capital Bangui that were pushed back, Aljazeera News reported.

The simultaneous dawn assaults nine and 12 km from the capital, which targeted two army brigades were the first close to the capital since President Faustin Archange Touadera was re-elected in a December 27 ballot.

“The situation in Bangui is tense. Early this morning, the new coalition of rebels called Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) attempted to take Bangui. But loyal forces blocked them,” the source in CAR told ACI Africa January 13, adding, “It is time again to say to France to leave us alone. We are a nation and free to choose our partners. CAR belongs to us.”

The source further said, “CAR people are tired of instability and oppression. CAR people want peace. Support of all is needed for peace. A new push (to war) will be a disaster for the people.”

With the January 13 morning attacks, the Bishops canceled the day’s session, ACI Africa was told about the session that had been reserved for various Commissions of the Central African Episcopal Conference (CECA) to report about their activities.

On January 6, Pope Francis called on the warring parties in 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, the Holy Father said that he was “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 on January 4 showed that President Touadera won, having secured 53.9 percent of the votes.

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,” Bishop Nestor-Désiré Nongo-Aziagbia of CAR’s Bossangoa Diocese said January 5.

On 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 January 4 report.

Making reference to the events of January 3 when the town was captured, Bishop Aguirre Muñoz who is one of the three Bishops unable to join members of CECA for the ongoing Plenary Assembly added, “The morning was hectic. Heavy artillery from 5 in the morning with about thirty dead and wounded.”

In their collective message ahead of the December 27 poll, CECA members had urged armed groups in the country 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.”

They demanded 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 said in their December 19 statement shared with ACI Africa.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]