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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bread, love and.....beatings

On monday 23rd of September we finally reopened the schools: from crèche to secondary school, a sea of children, boys and girls they invaded Bozoum.
Teachers, parents, students, everyone at the starting line for this new adventure in order to learn how to write, to do maths and most importantly how to live. There are kids of all races and religions attending our schools. 
And especially now that in RCA there are tensions between Muslims and Protestants, we want our schools to be cohabiting and respecting one another.
On Wednesday after a rainy night, we set off to Bossa, Bodalo 1 and Kemo, on the way to Bossangoa, to distribute PAM to those hiding in the fields.

It's very nice to see more than 1300 joyous and grateful. And it's even more nice to see there's hope. We feel a little safer because the Seleka rebels that were in Ouham Bac left. And the won't be able to cross the river because the barge used to cross it is blocked...distribution goes well, only thing is the truck got stuck in the mud until 1 am at night!

In this period, at the ONU general assembly, talked about RCA. Let's hope we'll have tangible results, because our situation keeps getting worse. In addition to the clashes from last weeks in Bossangoa (which caused 30000 runaways), last week in Herba, 70 km from Bocaranga, the  Seleka rebels killed two people and burnt 206 house to the ground.

Further more on Thursday they called me from Europe concerning a YouTube video
Sadly I had to confirm this has been shot in Bozoum, from the rebels' headquarters, and contains some torture scenes.
Here is a follow up article

On Friday I received the rebels' chief visit and I explained him the issue, advising to arrest the culprit (who was filmed in the video) and I also asked for the prison to be shut down and to free the prisoners. I also spoke to him about the problems in Herba, asking for those rebels to be sent away. Let's hope something (good) will happen!

Tomorrow 29th of September is St.Michael's day, our parish Patron's day. May he protect and bless our village and may he give us strength to fight every day!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Time flies by and days here are busy due to beginning of school and problems with rebels and refugees....
On Monday we received PAM deliveries (Worldwide food programme) for food assignment to all refugees.we distributed the food in 3 days, from Tuesday to Thursday to more than 5000 people. Now we still have to go to the Bozoum-Bossangoa track, for food delivery to the rest 1300 people who remained in the outskirts of the villages, afraid of more raids from the Seleka rebels.

here you can find links to some videos 
Rebels keep on causing troubles. In Bossangoa this week there have been more clashes and houses burnt down, with thousands run aways....and again on Friday in Tolle, a village 70 km from Bozoum, the rebels killed a man and burned down tens of houses.....
Although the President declared the dissolution of the seleka rebels it only remains on paper.....
After the smack they gave me last monday something happened, (my face aside) this thing went around: i got phone calls from all over! 
Also the rebel's chief got a call from AIA, from the International Crown Court House, in the person of  Caroline N.M.Bayiha, founder of the Stichting Lydia Foundation, activist for human rights. this definitely put him on the spot.

therefore on thursday morning the Seleka chief here in Bozoum asked for a private talk, so i sent for him.
he came in the afternoon, with his gang, the mayor, a police officer and one from the gendarmerie.
So many! too many for just one guy!
He apologized for what happened. told me when there is a problem i should call him, not to go to the base quarter myself....I repeated once more that it's time to put an end to violence, to random arrests, tortures, lootings.
He replied they arrested only whom had weapons. I said that's not true, many are taken only for ransoms and that's not enough to take weapons off people. they can still kill with bare hands or stones: if we do not change our hearts, possessing weapons or not doesnt make much of a difference! We parted well. let's hope for the best!

Tomorrow morning, the 23rd of September schools will re open again. from creche to secondary school. we'll have more than 1200 pupils once more through joys and hustles of schooling life. Here going to school it's always a tiny miracle.Day before yesterday i was preparing enrollments and a lady came by with her daughter. I asked her which class does her daughter go to. the daughter replied. Asked her for her name and the child replied. So i asked was she happy to go back to school, she nodded happily with a huge smile.
In these days we had a lovely news. through the SIRIRI organization from Czeck Republic we'll get help and open schoools for refugees!
these are the things that really matter, that we want war and violence to stop for.
however, the future remains dark. there are still 25000 rebels around us, very little hope for peace.
Last week in Bangui they were once more disarming: results? 130 rifles in 12 days.....and middle term perspective are disastrous. in itself this situation could allow new election within 15 months....but no one believes that. there are no records anymore, no prefects are back and it is impossible to travel freely.
only between Bozoum and  Ngaundaye there are 9 barriers in 200 km. All managed by rebels......

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Accidents along the way...

Yesterday, Sunday I visited with a local sick guy. On my way back people requested me to see a guy, 25 years old. He got arrested in Bocaranga by Seleka out of a money issue in which he was not involved and later on moved to Bozoum.
Rebels kept him for 11 days, tied up and tortured him: he lost an eye and his arms and legs are order to get him out of there and bring him to the hospital his family had to pay 90.000 CFA
On Monday morning a mother, the widow of a pastor who recently got shot during the Ramadan, came over asking for some help for his son. He had an homemade rifle, decided to give it up to the local chief but he got arrested, tied up and tortured. Ended up with one eye arms and legs paralyzed....for him Selekas demand 150000 f
At this point I decided. I went to see the Selekas.Went to home base, there was only one armed man. Prisons are full....I asked when will they finally stop torturing and keep people looked up....more rebels arrived. I asked where the chief was. I was told he went at the house across the street, where the Seleka "colonel" lives. I went there. I was waiting when more Selekas arrived. They threatened me, they told me they are going to kill me.
The colonel arrived. We sat down and talked. I told him I was there for these abuses. explained to him what happened. He replied it's their job. it's their job to arrest and beat people up. They are militaries he said. They can do as they please. I asked for at least one prisoner to be released. But they said no.
At that point another chief came in (some guy called Goni) he barged in shouting he's going to kill me, I had no right to be there pleading for the prisoners. He hold a gun and then he slapped me....
So I left.
What is to be done? When there are 9 barriers between Bozoum and Bangui and 9 between Bozoum and Ngaundaye...When Selekas respect no authority, no law…
How long will this hell go on ?


Today. 13th of September the president announced the Seleka rebel's disbandment,great news. 
If only it was true. I mean, the news is true, but they havent taken any serious initiative to make sure 25000 rebels surrender weapons.

Let's hope. However in these days tension is very high there have been conflicts between rebels and some armed gangs (ex-military? ex president's people? more rebels? or simply locals tired of being treated as slaves?).
Terrible results with more than 100 dead. biggest issue is that there have been reprisals against muslims by these gangs and right afterwards the Seleka hit the Christians with destruction, fires and killings.

These fights happened in Bouca, Bossangoa and near Paoua.....that's less than 150 km from Bozoum.

Most people run away. Here in bozoum refugees are more than 6400! This week we'll distribute food and think about school for more than 3000 displaced kids...
and even if the situation doesn't get better...hope is here!

Hope. Vojtech, 20 years old from Pilsen (Czeck Republic) just arrived. He'll stay here for a year as a teacher and as a student! to live and understand life in this part of the world.

Hope. Student Centre is almost completed. It will host about 80 students attending our schools whom are from Ndim, Bosemptele and other far away villages.

Hope. Between the end of August and the beginning of September we have organized a 2 weeks training for 80 teachers of our schools. Education, schooling, and also civics and social studies, which this country  foremost needs

Hope. In these days, for 2 weeks our catechists about 80 of them are in training about Faith, Credo and the sacrament of holy matrimony 
Hope. Yesterday I spent one hour with one rebel, playing the part of the order to help him think and let the good prevail in him....for change of path!
Hope. Tomorrow, Saturday the 14h, we'll meet with religious leaders: catholics, protestants and muslim. all together to pray, think over things and help out our people not to fall into hatred, fear and disdain
Hope that shines on many peoples faces. It is Faith!

But hope, says God, that is something that surprises me.
Even me.
That is surprising.That these poor children see how things are going and believe that tomorrow things will go better.
That they see how things are going today and believe that they will go better tomorrow morning.
That is surprising to me and it’s by far the greatest marvel of our grace.
And I’m surprised by it myself.
And my grace must indeed be an incredible force.
And must flow freely and like an inexhaustible river.
My three Virtues, my creatures 
are as my other creature in the race of men
Faith is “a loyal Wife,” charity “a Mother.
Hope is a little girl, nothing at all.
Who came into the world on Christmas day just this past year.
Who is still playing with her snowman.
With her German fir trees painted with frost. . . .
And yet it’s this little girl who will endure worlds.
This little girl, nothing at all,
She alone, carrying the others, who will cross worlds past.

(Charles Péguy)

Saturday, September 7, 2013



Wednesday morning we set off to Bouar 4.30 am (250) km. in the afternoon we met up with caritas, justice and peace because of a big issue: since the 16th of August in Bohong ther have been riots, causing at least 30 deaths, destruction of 2000 housings, burnt to prevent from people to stay there. We heard Abbé Michel's recounting whom, as the nuns, had to flee. Some of the people escaped to Bouar some others stayed in the fields around Bohong,

Later on also arrived the archbishop of Bangui, president of the episcopal conference and of caritas. His presence here is very important, for support and morale, but also to expose what's happening 

Thursday morning at 6am 20 km far from Bohong the red line begins: hundreds of houses are burning, then ndakaya, finally Bohong. As I wait for the rest of the delegation i take a look around. There are still skeletons and skulls lying there, abandoned.....

As the archbishop arrived more people joined. We gathered in the church with Protestants ( the hold a small hospital here, wich was just looted) the small church is crowded, we celebrated a very partaken mass.

Right after that we heard the brave people telling their story speak, it's very touching to listen to women talk about loosing their husbands, to hear of fathers loosing their sons. There is sorrow, but no anger. Someone said "aren't we all centrafrican?" Another said "we're as slaves"

Thousands of houses burnt to the ground, everything they had is gone.....what's to be done???
What is really worrying is the deep damage  Created between the Muslims and the rest. No Muslim home has been burnt. And what's worse is some locals indicated to the rebels which was whom, where was the hospital ans the farmacy cabinet....

We'll need a lot of time to re build but much more to recreate a serene coexistence
After the meeting I stayed in the church with the village chiefs to organize data collection for burnt homes and victims, so we can quickly act. The archbishop and the rest went to the city council.
I joined them afterwards when the meeting had already started. So many people. On my arrival I heard them speak in Arabic and I said (so they could hear me) are we in central Africa or what? The one talking was the rebels chief, the translator sais "here everything is fine, we haven't done anything, haven't hurt anyone, nothing happened"
The mayor said they had to go back home, that what's done is the vicar, the abbé mirek answered "go back where? Everything is burnt to the ground!" And the people clapped hard.
After the meeting we went to check on the Lutheran hospital,  here they hold the maternity wing. Here too, the rebels broke and entered while shooting (in an hospital!) and stole meds, microscope, solar panels, bike, and a car's engine....
We came back our way with deep sorrow. How many Bohong are there? How many villages have been abused? When will all this be over?