Bishop welcomes troops in Central African Republic

Troops deploy to disarm rebels

A Catholic bishop in the Central African Republic (CAR) has welcomed the arrival of peacekeeping troops to tackle the violent rebel regime there.

Bishop Juan Jose Aguirre Munos of Bangassou said the 1,600 soldiers from France and some 500 from the Democratic Republic of Congo were having an appreciable effect already. “The situation in the capital [Bangui] is calm as well as in Bangassou,” he said, adding that “the rebels Seleka seem to be on the run, at least from Bangui and the surrounding areas.” The bishop added that Catholics, Protestants and Muslims in Bangassou are now working to create peaceful co-existence following fears that the region was about to tip towards genocide.

Bishop Munos’ words come as latest reports from the Central African Republic reveal that nearly 400 people died in fierce clashes last weekend as the situation turned against Seleka. In parts of the country, Christians had formed vigilante groups to actively target rebels and to counter the violence they have endured for months since the March takeover when a peace deal with former President Francois Bozize fell apart. President Bozize subsequently fled the CAR as Seleka closed on the capital.

Now, his replacement, Michel Djotodia, has sought to distance himself from the violence, pleading that he has lost control of the Seleka rebels now retreating before French and African Union forces.

Apparent calm

Amid the apparent calm, however, Bishop Munos warned that in the north of the country, citizens, not least Christians who have been targeted by the predominantly Muslim rebels, continue to live under threat.

“In Bouca and Bossangoa several thousand people, mostly Christians, are still refugees in the Catholic missions. The displaced are living in fear and suffer from lack of food and medicines.”