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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lots of time and work to go back to real peace.

Monday: reinforces arrive into evening! it's the FOMAC militaries. 20 soldiers, really professionals. they immediately secured our Mission's area, which now hosts more than 4500 refugees. then they went to meet with the Seleka rebels, informed them they will patrol the city, Selekas disagreed. FOMACs said it doesn't matter, they'll do it anyways. Seleka then demands to patrol together, FOMACs refused. Selekas had no choice but to agree.

Tuesday:I went to the airport in the morning to carry a woman who was badly injured by Seleka people last friday. The Red Cross brought her in Paoua, where Doctors Without Borders will take care of her. meanwhile FOMACs met with local authorities, the Imam and Selekas. Selekas demanded that refugees would leave the Mission and went home and they would be providing security service (!!!)
They insisted on meeting with the people at 2 pm. I refused to let them in. Also I wanted for the people to speak. so i agreed upon meeting with a dozen refugees representatives in a building opposite the street. 2pm we all were there. Except Selekas. We decided to wait another half hour. At 2.25 pm the "colonel" called, saying he fell asleep, and he was on his way now. We told him "No". refugees delegation, once they heard we said no were clapping hands. It's vital these people began to awake to their own dignity and demand some respect.
In town there's a little less tension and few less weapons...
After the failed meeting I set off with the Red Cross again, to retrieve a dead body. on our way home we came across few young armed guys. We stopped, i asked why were they carrying weapons. They replied that they were afraid of the anti-balakas (local militias attacking Selekas and Muslims) I told them to stay calm and not to go around armed. 
8.30 pm we got news the anti-balakas were in town....we took some safety precautions and went to bed...and finally we had a peaceful night. 

Wednesday: this morning we had a meeting at 8.30 am. the Sleka's "colonel" Yahaya, was 5 minutes early. he learnt his lesson. Accompanied by another "colonel" Ibrahim and 10/15 (battle's nickname) and his security man (wearing more "grisgris" -talismans- then weapons. there were many people and delegates began to talk. They expressed their feeling afraid, worried,and unsafe. just this past night Slekas burned two houses and stole a phone.
Women were far more brave than men: one of them spoke. Selekas killed her husband last Friday, she's got 7 small kids and nothing left. this testimony made many of us cry.
After this it was finally my turn! I have been waiting for months to get to the right moment to shout and expose the Selekas foul deeds and give them a piece (or two or three and perhaps more) of my mind. I had an audience so I jumped in.
Turned out that Selekas demand for all refugees to come back home. but there's no guarantee. I told them the problem is not the Muslims. They, the Selekas are, they are the killers. they are the ones who throw dead bodies in the river, who even took it up on me and the Red Cross because we went looking for them. Seleka arrests and tortures people, Seleka threatens (then i directly spoke to “10/15” and told him "you. you are the one that at the city council shouted against us and told me you were coming to kill me"). I went ahead: "It's the Seleka that beats up people and steals from them, Seleka who places barriers illegally with the excuse of protecting: the truth is that you to exact a tribute from everybody. Your only interest is to protect your own pockets. you forced people to flee, you made them escape here and since August demand all food and supply trucks to pay you a fee. You demand that people go back home tonight? just few hours ago you burned two and stole a can you expect anyone to believe and trust you? we have no issues with Muslims, nor Pelus. Our doors were open to anyone in need, we give food to refugees here in the Mission and in the Mosque. Our problem is with you, the Selekas.
Their answer was simply : "We'll see". I stayed back a while longer with them after the meeting, to make sure they got the point........We will see. 

After that i went to visit with the Peuls. there were 2200 of them, more are coming....they were happy to see us. they're afraid the anti-balaka will attack again (they had injured people, so they are armed now) We met with the Imam, a good friend. I took this joyous moment to make sure everyone knew we have nothing against the Muslims, that it's vital we all live together in peace. it was a good moment. I also invited the Imam over at the Mission to talk to refugees. He was happy to accept. I came back here, with hope in my mind of a tomorrow free of all this....i wonder if the Selekas will be able to honor and respect peace, stop extortions and violence. 
At 4pm I met with "colonel" Yahaya and prefect secretary. He's a calm type and I resumed my argument. People won't leave from here unless Selekas stop stealing, killing and torturing. I hope he'll listen to me.
In the next days we'll see if they want to change or not. 
I stopped by, looking for the Imam and we came home together to meet with the refugees. I introduced him and explained people our Muslim brothers' fear, that they were under attack by the anti-balakas. i stressed out the point of respecting everyone and to hopefully go back on living together peacefully. Imam also spoke. He invited people to move back home.
This is too early, of course, people are still scared.
It will all take time. Lots of time and work to go back to real peace.

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