I have delayed writing a blog entry because there is not much good news. We have been evacuated again to Cameroon: first to Garoua Boulai just over the border from CAR and then to N’gaoundéré, further north where there is a large US/Norwegian mission station.
There have been a lot of articles in the press and on the Internet about what is happening and why. Basically, the rebels who took control of towns in December then agreed to a peace accord January 11. They took more towns last week and then invaded and took control of Bangui, the capital.
Seleka is a coalition of rebel groups, so once they ousted the now-former President Bozizé, they achieved their common goal. But, do they have other common objectives? One man named himself president and that seems to be holding although there are rumors that other groups of the coalition are not happy with his action.
Then, Tuesday, the New York Times reported, “The leader of the rebel group that seized power in the Central African Republic, Michel Djotodia, announced Monday that he was suspending his country’s Constitution, dissolving its Parliament and initiating a three-year “consensual transition.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/27/world/africa/central-africa-rebel-leader-suspends-constitution-and-parliament.html?ref=centralafricanrepublic&_r=0) He plans to rule by decree – just as Bozizé did when he took power after the 2003 coup.
At the same time, I have heard that the new government will respect the peace accord signed in Libreville in January. We will have to see how it goes!
Meanwhile, on the border between the towns of Cantonnier (CAR) and Garoua Boulai (Cameroon), things became tense. Although there are conflicting reports, it seems that some Central African soldiers wanted to enter Cameroon. The Cameroonians (rightly, in my opinion!) insisted that they turn in their arms at the border and be processed as political refugees. Some soldiers wanted to lay down arms and others didn’t. Some of the later started shooting at some of the former – their own colleagues. Some soldiers abandoned their arms (and probably their uniforms) to cross the border. Local people found them and started shooting – rifles and some mortar rounds as well. Even though all guns and shooting were on the Central African side of the border, stray bullets didn’t respect the invisible line and injured by-standers in both CAR and Cameroon. Some people were also killed. I am told that all has been quiet since Thursday night.
OK. Those are the basics. You can find more online. I am now thinking a lot about the fact that this cycle of coup d’états, relative peace, increasingly smaller numbers of people involved in the government (generally part of the current ruler’s family or ethnic group), rebel discontent, leading to renewed fighting enriches a few and makes many suffer. Subsistence farming is still the most common way to eke out a living.
As rebels come back out of the bush – often supported by neighboring governments, unfortunately – villagers seek refuge in their fields or woods if there are any nearby. I had the luxury of leaving the country in a well-maintained vehicle with many of my valuables. I now live with more “luxuries” than in Baboua! 24-hour electricity and Internet, closer contact with more missionaries, access to more diversity of goods in the market and stores, etc. And, we were fortunate before to be living and working in Baboua since it has been calm and trouble-free all along.
Meanwhile, many Central Africans are living with constant worry, if not fear. Will rebels, soldiers or bandits come into town to loot? When will peace and stability return? Will they be able to plant crops at this the beginning of the rainy season?
What do the rebels get from the coup? Money, mostly. Power for a few who can dole it and riches out to family and friends. Control of who get the diamonds, uranium, gold, etc. Probably kick-backs from the “development” of these riches (in ways that benefit the exploiters and not the Central Africans – just as in colonial days). Throughout CAR’s history since independence in 1960, there have been many similar situations. Colonizers, through their actions, taught Central African leaders to take and give nothing in return. Leaders since then have learned the lesson well!
|School in Bondiba|
|main street in Bangui, the capital|
|kids in Bangui|
|paving the road - Bouar|
|more kids in Bangui|
|Getting water at a spring - Baboua|
|Bike transport in Bohong|
|Getting water at a well-Kella-Bokokpme|
And, so, the country as a whole does not advance or develop. The people have little access to education or health care as schools, hospitals, roads, infrastructures are not developed. I am including a few pictures taken in November/December – pre-coup. Even in poverty, people find ways to share joy! Isn’t it amazing? Maybe even a source of hope…
How can this never-ending cycle be stopped???
I am here to work with the Village School Program and Christian Education to try – to support and accompany those who are working for change. I have to believe that it can work in the long run – but in the short run my biggest contribution is phone calls to team members I work with. Better than nothing – but just barely!
You can see why I have been reluctant to write a blog entry. Reality is too “real” right now and it is discouraging. But, while there is life and love, there is hope. I am hopeful that some kind of peace returns soon to the Central African Republic. I am hopeful to return soon to Baboua and my work there. I am hopeful that the programs of the Église Évangélique Luthérienne de la République Centrafricaine will make a difference in the lives of Central Africans. Please pray and hope with me. Maybe we can reach a critical mass and bring change soon!