Thousands in the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui are celebrating the resignation of the country’s interim president, although widespread suffering continues. On Thursday January 10, President Michel Djotodia was forced to step down at a meeting of regional leaders in Chad in a move aimed at ending the violence between Muslims and Christians that has beset the country since armed rebels overthrew the president in March 2013. Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye also resigned. A new transitional government is to be set up in coming days.
Meanwhile, thousands of Central Africans are starving. Moreover, The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF says that two children have been beheaded, and that “unprecedented levels of violence” are being carried out on children. An estimated 935,000 people have been uprooted throughout the country
More Troops or more Food?
French and African troops deployed in the country have struggled to stop the violence. More than 1,000 people have been killed since December. Religious institutions and stores are being looted and vandalized by the rebels. And 935,000 people are homeless because of the fighting, according to the United Nations. To stop the massacres, the European Union proposes sending troops to reinforce the French soldiers already deployed in the Sangaris Operation, and the African Union peacekeeping mission (MISCA). France is proposing an EU force of at least battalion-strength, roughly 700 to 1,000 soldiers, to bolster the 1,600 troops it has already sent. Poland, Britain, Germany, Spain and Belgium have already provided some assistance to the French effort.
As a result of the fighting which has destroyed crops and caused widespread looting, millions of Central Africans are starving. In the capital Bangui, displaced civilians have endured months of hardships. Relief shipments of food into Bangui’s Airport have been insufficient to feed those in need. Aid workers’ efforts to help tens of thousands of displaced civilians at camps around the airport and nearby parishes have been overwhelmed by the scale of the needs and the continued fighting. “Doctors without Borders tried to start vaccinating children at that camp last week but stopped the program because of violence, at the time,” said a reporter from the United Nations Children’s Fund. The U.N. agency needs about $64 million to provide humanitarian assistance in CAR, this year. Only one-third of those funds have been received, said a U.N.’s agent. (Reuters)
Envisage a Radical Reconciliation
“People need protection. People need, communities need to be able to interact with each other, understand and try to calm down at the moment and certainly not go to violence when they have to solve a problem. So I think that is the most important,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. Political and religious leaders in the Central African Republic must take action for radical reconciliation.
Reconciliation is radical when it goes beyond political accommodation, to focus successful negotiation, achievement of equilibrium of interests and peace for all. Besides, radical reconciliation as a forgiveness matter is not just crucial but in fact, indispensable in the process. There is an inseparable intersection between reconciliation and social justice. Seleka rebels and Anti-Balaka militias must face justice. We call political actors of the CAR for genuine reconciliation in their efforts to establish open, multicultural, and inter-religious communities. Crucial questions of justice, equality, and dignity are to be raised by the coming transitional government.
By Barwende Sane, SJ based in Bangui and edited by Tom Hannon, AFJN’s Media and Public Relations