Now is the time: The battle against land grabbing carried to the arena of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Republic of Central Africa

Now is the time: The battle against land grabbing carried to the arena of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Republic of Central Africa

Sr Elianna Baldi is a Comboni Missionary and the Coordinator of the AEFJN antenna in the Republic of Central Africa. She participated in the land grabbing conference in Côte d’Ivoire in November 2017 (Photo above). At the end of the conference, she took the battle against land grabbing to the Central African Episcopal Conference. She shares her experience and the outcome of her intervention with us (see below).  What is certain from her story is that while the Church is involved in reconciliation programs to heal the wounds of the past, it is less proactive on the prevention of future conflicts; meanwhile, a script for such a conflict is in progress.

Presently, the Church has no concrete plans to make input into the current land reforms in the country to ensure that the needs and rights of the poor especially women, indigenous people and farmers are protected. It would be tragic for the Church to let this opportunity pass by only to come later to organize reconciliation programs and fasting and prayer sessions.  In my opinion, they are not aware of the magnitude of the opportunity available to them now and they need to be made to understand this and to be accompanied through the process. The Secretariat plans to mobilize ‘OUR LAND IS OUR LIFE’ PLATFORM (an informal platform of Church and Civil Society actors in Europe and Africa working against land grabbing in Africa which we co-founded in 2015 after Limuru, Nairobi Conference) and to work closely with our local AEFJN antenna and the Bishops’ Conference to build on this outcome and contribute to ensuring that the interests and rights of the poor are protected in the land reforms. Follow this link to read the full text of her presentation

Dear Friends,

Let me give you a brief feedback on today’s meeting (presentation to the Central African Episcopal Conference), as you supported and helped me with the preparation.

Let me tell you right now that I am very, very happy!

I went in with the secretary of the Episcopal JPIC Commission who introduced me after his presentation of the annual report.

I had time to give my presentation to all the Bishops and their Vicars general. Using maps, I spent more time on the section related to Central African Republic (CAR) because I really wanted to “convince” them about the importance and timeliness of the problem.

Then it was time for reactions or questions in relation to the two presentations.

With great joy, I wish to report that many reacted positively and thanked me for the presentation. Especially many gave examples of what is happening in their dioceses, confirming that the unfortunate land grabbing is a reality and that action is needed.

The shared thoughts and contributions were interesting and caused us to run overtime, especially as there was no other presenter after me.

These recommendations or requests were made to the Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Commission to:

– to remain engaged about the land tenure law currently under consideration in the National
Assembly and find ways to make contributions

– to make efforts to educate the population about their rights

–  to organize in each diocese a kind of investigation about the status of land grabbing

The Bishop of Berberati in particular asked me to continue sending to him documents, especially concrete cases of land grabbing elsewhere.

At the end of our exchange I was invited to stay for the meal.

Now I think we have to organize ourselves to help, influence and drive this work in case the JPIC commission is not flexible enough to respond to these recommendations.

In fact, listening to their report, they work with international organizations which finance the so-called social cohesion project (information and billboards) and they plan to open listening centres in different dioceses. They work in the domain of SPC and restorative justice, just to name a few things

There you have it for tonight …..

Truly thank you very much. Let us stay stick together and be watchful like watchmen ….

Sr. Elianna Baldi

AEFJN Antenna of Bangui, Central Africa

This article was initially published on www.aefjn.org

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