Category Archives: Africa

Peace mission in Central African Republic

Credit: Fr Aurellio/Caritas

Credit: Fr Aurellio/Caritas

By Fr.Aurelio Gazzera in Bozoum, Central African Republic

Francais and Espanol 

 

These days we received a great gift: The visit of the Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonné Nzapalainga. He is one of the few people in the country who raise their voices against injustice and violence. He is the president of the Episcopal Conference and of Caritas. He brought us the solidarity of the Church and gave us great encouragement.  He came here to examine the situation of the 2,400 displaced people who abandoned  their villages along the Bozoum-Bossangoa road to get to Bouzom.

On Saturday we started with a meeting with the delegates of the eight villages, who presented their situation and their needs. Their most urgent need is peace and security. But then also healthcare, food, shelter… At 10 AM we met with one of the few officials who remained in the city. However, he does not have any power, as everything has been taken over by the rebels, who are doing whatever they want, and who are even controlling the judicial system.

At 11 AM we met the Chadian Consul, as many rebels are coming from his country. Afterwards we met the colonel of the rebels. We talked and talked – and even this is already something. I explained to them why we have come, and asked them to leave these villages in peace and to release the captives.

In the afternoon we visited some families. Almost all the displaced persons had been taken in by relatives or friends. In one family there have arrived 38 persons.

At 3 PM we met these internal refugees. More than 500 attended the meeting.

Credit. Fr Aurellio/Caritas

Credit. Fr Aurellio/Caritas

Sunday, 19th of August

We started the day with the celebration of the Holy Mass, presided by the Archbishop. I had feared that because of the change in the schedule not so many people would attend Mass, but the church was overcrowded. The Archbishop accompanied us by his prayers and helped us to believe and to hope.

At 9 AM, right after Holy Mass, we hit the road. I went first with my car, as the Archbishop was escorted by Gabonese soldiers of the FOMAC. I feared the people might flee at the sight of the soldiers.

I stopped in Voudou. The rebels were gathering there and invited me. I could not refuse their invitation. They were just collecting their arms (the old guns made out of water pipes). I tried to calm down the people, because the rebels who had caused so much trouble came from Bossangoa, not from Bozoum. After some 10 minutes the Archbishop also arrived, met the people and encouraged them.

We went to Bossa, where the rebels had killed one person (who, by the way, was handicapped).  The inhabitants of the village were hiding and did not come out until they understood it was only us. While we were talking, the rebels arrived. The people fled in panic. I told them to stay calm and slowly, slowly they decided to stay.

In Bodalo, an abandoned village, there was not a living soul. Only when we were returning did we meet 4 (four!) persons.

In Kemo there are still people around, but they are terrified. Some of them had been tied up and beaten. We crossed the river to meet the rebels – the very worst ones. The colonel was lounging around on a chair. He spoke only Arabic. The vice-colonel translated the conversation. We said we had come to visit the villages where the violence and the massacres had taken place. The colonel replied, that this was not true and nothing happened. I made him repeat this twice.

When we left their „base“, on the other side of the street the inhabitants of the village were waiting. We approached them and encouraged them.

Then we left the Archbishop who was still to go to Bossangoa. We returned to Bozoum – somewhat encouraged and hopeful, but also with deep sadness. What we had seen, is just a tiny part of the pain and the suffering the country has been going through for five month. And while we are here, the self-proclaimed president is sworn into office in Bangui.

There are so many doubts and so many questions!

 

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Filed under Africa, Central African Republic, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Central African Republic, Peacebuilding

Thousands in need of aid in South Sudan’s Pibor

Farmer Mary Ngok, 31, receives sorghum, oil and lentils in exchange for road construction work completed as part of the Catholic Relief Services-led Jonglei Food Security Program, in Jonglei, South Sudan. Photo by Sara A. Fajardo/CRS

Farmer Mary Ngok, 31, receives sorghum, oil and lentils in exchange for road construction work completed as part of the Catholic Relief Services-led Jonglei Food Security Program, in Jonglei, South Sudan. Photo by Sara A. Fajardo/CRS

Ongoing violence in South Sudan’s Jongeli State has forced an estimated 100,000 people from their homes into the bush.  The recent clashes include inter-communal violence between Lou Nuer and Murle people.

Those who have fled the fighting  and are living in the wilderness have no food, clean water or healthcare. Aid agencies are struggling to reach them due to the fighting and heavy rains that make the roads inaccessible.

Caritas is working with the UN’s WFP to distribute food to those displaced and effected by the violence in the Pibor area in Jonglei. Caritas South Sudan has been mobilising diocesan staff and parish volunteers to support the humanitarian response in Jongeli State.

Caritas member Catholic Relief Services is also supporting the intervention.

Caritas South Sudan said, “A big thank you to the parish volunteers from Archdiocese of Juba and the Dioceses of Tombura-Yambio and Wau. In an act of true solidarity, they are travelling to Jongeli to help their fellow South Sudanese.”

Time is running out to reach those in need as the rainy season is fast approaching, making roads impassable for aid convoys.

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Filed under Africa, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Darfur and South Sudan, Peacebuilding, Refugees, South Sudan, Sudan

Élection au Mali : ce qui va garantir l’avenir de ce pays

Liste des électeurs d’un bureau de vote, lors du premier tour de l’élection présidentielle dimanche 28 juillet. © Caritas Mali

Liste des électeurs d’un bureau de vote, lors du premier tour de l’élection présidentielle dimanche 28 juillet. © Caritas Mali

Par Sophie Lebrun

Au lendemain du second tour de l’élection présidentielle au Mali qui a amené Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta à être élu, Théodore Togo, secrétaire général de la Caritas nationale, estime que cette étape marque l’engagement des Maliens pour la démocratie.

« Le scrutin s’est déroulé dans le calme, avec une affluence restreinte par rapport au premier tour, le 28 juillet, mais sans fraude ni problème. » Observateur de la Caritas Mali, Serge Sangare a passé son dimanche 11 août dans un bureau de vote de Segou, située au centre du Mali, à 240 km de la capitale Bamako.

Ils supervisaient les six autres habitants de la ville formés par la Caritas Mali pour veiller au bon respect du processus démocratique pour le second tour de l’élection présidentielle. L’enjeu était de taille : cette élection, remportée par Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta selon une annonce de son opposant Soumaïla Cissé lundi 12 août dans la nuit, a permis de rétablir l’ordre constitutionnel après le coup d’État militaire du 22 mars dernier. Celui-ci avait précipité la chute du nord du pays aux mains de groupes islamistes armés liés à Al-Qaïda et avait affaibli les structures étatiques.

Le fait que l’élection n’ait pas été entachée d’irrégularités marque un tournant démocratique. Avec son équipe d’observateurs, Serge Sangare a noté « moins d’erreurs techniques » qu’au premier tour. Ceux qui cherchaient leur bureau de vote il y a deux semaines ont trouvé plus facilement où aller pour exercer leur devoir de citoyen. Le secret du vote a été bien respecté, personne n’a été empêché d’accéder aux urnes : « La sécurité était assurée pour tous, minimisant les possibilités de fraudes. »

Vote libre

« Aux abords des bureaux de vote, les discussions étaient similaires : peu importe le candidat qu’ils soutenaient, les gens exprimaient tous une volonté de sortir de la crise politique », ajoute Serge Sangare.

Le Secrétaire général de Caritas Mali, Théodore Togo, arrive au même constat en se basant sur les rapports des 147 autres observateurs déployés par Caritas Mali en partenariat avec le Secours Catholique dans tout le pays : « Les Maliens ont voté librement. Ils avaient conscience que le pays vivait un moment fort, à prendre au sérieux pour construire le Mali de demain. Ils ont ainsi refusé la pression des talibans. »

L’association avait, depuis plusieurs semaines, essayé de sensibiliser à la mobilisation citoyenne : des banderoles et panneaux appelant à aller voter avaient été installés dans les grandes villes, arborant des slogans comme « Des élections libres, crédibles, transparentes », « Acceptez les résultats du vote de tous les Maliens » ou encore « Soyons des artisans de paix, avant, pendant et après les élections ».

Continuer à surveiller les gouvernants

« J’ai observé une marque forte de maturité politique autour de cette élection, confie Théodore Togo. Cela est de bon augure pour la suite : je pense que les Maliens ont pris conscience que l’élection n’est que le début. Je ressens déjà une attente pour suivre la gestion de celui qui sera élu. »

Pour lui, cet engagement révélé ces dernières semaines est « ce qui va garantir l’avenir de ce pays ». Et la Caritas Mali compte bien continuer son travail de veille des responsables politiques pour une bonne gouvernance du pays. « À court terme, nous aimerions à nouveau former et accompagner des observateurs locaux pour les élections législatives », explique Théodore Togo n’osant s’avancer faute de moyens disponibles pour l’instant.

« Notre participation a été très appréciée, autant par les autorités en charge de l’élection qui nous ont apprécié la vigilance des observateurs quant aux règles électorales dans leur bureau de vote, que par les observateurs internationaux comme l’Union européenne qui a cherché à collaborer avec nous, souligne-t-il. Des électeurs nous ont aussi remercié : en découvrant des observateurs locaux, certaines populations se sont senti rassurées et ont pu voter dans le calme. »

Mais le Secrétaire général de la Caritas Mali voudrait explorer aussi une autre piste : « Nous pourrions profiter de l’élan créé pour mettre en place une commission Justice et Paix dans notre pays. Elle pourrait, comme les autres commissions de ce type chez nos voisins, être un lieu d’engagement chrétien pour suivre et alerter sur l’évolution de la justice au-delà des élections. »

Pour revivre les deux tours de l’élection présidentielle au Mali, retrouvez témoignages, photos et articles sur la page Facebook spécialement créée pour l’occasion Caritas Mali 2013.

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Filed under Africa, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in the Sahel, Mali, Peacebuilding

Killings reported in Central Africa Republic

People who have fled violence in Bouar. Credit: Fr Aurelio

People who have fled violence in Bouar. Credit: Fr Aurelio

By Clotaire Mbao Ben-Seb, Communications Officer Caritas Central Africa

The people of Central African Republic continue to live through a terrifying ordeal.

Calm has returned to the capital Bangui, but in the interior of the country, human rights abuses are continuing according to local staff.

Fr Aurélio Gazzera is the local diocesan Caritas director in Bouar in northern CAR.

He says that there has been violence, robbery and killings against the local people from 25 July. People are experiencing the worst conditions of their lives.

Fr Gazzera was part of a fact finding mission to Ouhman-Bac on Sunday 27 July. He says there are reports of between 30 to 50 bodies thrown into the river Ouham. This has caused people to flee from the area. Caritas is seeking to find out further confirmation around the incident.

Fr Gazzera says that there is a lack of food, medicine, sleeping mats and tarpaulins for people as the rainy season hits.

A fact finding mission found villages empty. Credit: Fr Aurelio

A fact finding mission found villages empty. Credit: Fr Aurelio

He says that in the regional capital Bouar, Muslim, Protestant and Catholic leaders have met to discuss the issue and produced a message to be read in various churches and mosques.

The message condemns the violence and calls on all believers to come together for peace (see link to press release).

They have dedicated 12 August, the day before independence for Central African Republic, as a day of prayer at the local stadium.

 

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Filed under Africa, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Central African Republic, Peacebuilding

International Youth Day focus on migration

Children forced from their homes by violence near the border between South Sudan and Sudan.  Caritas provides families with shelter materials and items like mosquito nets and soap. Laura Sheahen/Caritas

Children forced from their homes by violence near the border between South Sudan and Sudan. Caritas provides families with shelter materials and items like mosquito nets and soap. Laura Sheahen/Caritas

By Maria Suelzu, International Advocacy Officer for Caritas Internationalis

International Youth Day is commemorated every year on 12 August. This year the theme is ‘Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward’.

Many migrants are minors. They can be children with relatives, who are looking for asylum or a better place to live and get out of extreme poverty. They can be adolescents trying to escape from hardship, poverty, war or persecution on their own. They can be children moving from poor rural areas to big cities or young girls forced into domestic work at an early age who live and work in conditions often close to servitude.

All these minors should be protected by the provisions indicated in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that are binding for the countries who have ratified them (most in fact) and should be used as guidelines by the others. Continue reading

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Filed under Advocacy, Africa, Migration, Minor migrants, South Sudan

Food for hope in Mali

Caritas food distribution

Caritas food distribution of 50 kg of rice, 33 kg of beans, a can of oil in Dar Salam. Credit: Caritas

By Alice LE MOAL, Secours Catholique

Read in French

It is 10 AM when our team arrives in Dar Salam district where Caritas food distribution is taking place. The Caritas Mali team responsible for the distribution welcomed us warmly. The sun is already high, the beneficiaries wait in the shade for the beginning of the process.

Among them, Oumou Diarra, her husband and six children are from Kidal , they all left town when the rebels took over. In Kidal, she was running a restaurant with her husband. Today, unable to find an income-generating activity in Bamako they are standing on line . They were given three bags of 50 kg of rice, 33 kg of beans, a can of oil, allowing the family to be fed for two months. Continue reading

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Filed under Africa, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in the Sahel, Food, Mali, Malnutrition

Angoisse sur la route: le recit de Joshua*

Mon histoire malheureusement arrive a beaucoup d’autres en Centrafrique, moi j’ai eu la chance de m’en sortir, mais les autres ?

Le but de mon voyage était de visiter ma sœur en compagnie mon beau frère et récupérer nos motos et les ramener a Bangui.

Nous sommes parti le matin de Carnot, à 500km de Bangui , nous avions parcouru à peine 100 km quand à l’entrée Baoro, on s’est arrêtés à la barrière de contrôle pour les formalités d’usage. Les gardes armés ont demandé à mon beau frère douanier, son ordre de mission mais comme aucun service administratif ne fonctionne, il n’en avait pas.

Quand à moi, ils me demandent si je travaille puis nous demandent à tous les deux de laisser nos bagages au barrage de contrôle et de suivre deux gardes armés pour aller chercher le colonel à la caserne d’ à coté pour qu’il nous donne un ordre de mission.

Dès notre retour, j’ai constaté que ma sacoche avait changé de place. Le colonel a commencé à nous poser des questions. Ensuite on s’est fait fouiller, et tout à coup , ils sortent de ma sacoche deux cartouches qu’ils ont du mettre quand nous étions allés cherché le colonel. Et la tout bascule dans l’horreur. D’un coup, avec ces cartouches je passe pour un militaire de l’armée de Centrafrique et donc quelqu’un a abattre. Continue reading

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Filed under Africa, Central African Republic, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Central African Republic, Peacebuilding