Catholic bishops in the Central African Republic have called on the government to end its armed groups deal and refrain from election “interference”.
In a pastoral letter released by the country’s episcopal conference, the bishops lamented that up to “80 per cent of our country is still occupied by armed groups” who are “involved in war crimes, crimes against humanity, environmental crimes and large-scale looting of our mining resources”.
In the last eight years rival militias have torn the country apart, leaving a million people internally displaced and a further 400,000 seeking refuge abroad.
The bishops criticised the current administration for failing to deal with these “warlords”, noting that the government’s Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation had allowed armed groups to “enjoy all the privileges, especially full freedom of movement and impunity, despite the continuation of abuses on the ground.”
“They are guaranteed access to the authorities,” the bishops continued. “They enjoy the business of war, set up as an economic model of human blood.”
Released this week, the pastoral letter arrives in the run-up to next December’s general elections in the Central African Republic and the bishops said that the country was now in need of “charismatic leaders, and significant and effective support from the international community” because “our goodwill alone will not suffice to free us from our persecutors.”
The bishops, however, questioned how free and fair the country’s upcoming elections will be. “What can we say about the upcoming elections in our country?” the bishops asked. “Will they be credible and accepted elections or contested elections followed by violence? Is there currently a climate of trust or mistrust? What kinds of political alliances are we seeing? Are the candidates in the presidential and legislative elections prepared to sign and abide by a code of conduct?”
The statement concluded by urging the government to avoid “interference by public authorities in the electoral process” and it called on voters to help guide the country in a new direction.
The bishops especially appealed to the younger generation, society’s “most important resource”, to show that power did not depend “on the barrel of a gun, but on values, ideas, social projects, contradictory debates and political convictions”. And they asked women, the “nourishing mothers of society”, to “mobilise and participate actively in the electoral process – as candidates, electors, educators and promoters of nonviolence in your districts and communities, and at every level where you can serve our country.”
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