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Monday, January 27, 2014!

With the Selekas  gone,we are now facing the Antibalakas. Not one day goes by without discussions or meetings aiming only to reason and to cease violence, rubbery and intimidation. The State doesn't exist and it's very hard to keep everybody calm.
I'm ever so worried for the Muslims and Peuls, who had to leave their homes after the Antibalakas threatened them, they lost almost everything, because of the plunders. We try our best to suppor and help them with water and rice supplies.
The path to peace is long and hard. I often say it's like an unborn child, in need of many attention.

Tuesday, the 21st of January 2014
Finally a day with less issues. In the morning MISCA soldiers arrived, also Bozoum received a delegation of : ONU OCHA, PAM, Unicef, HCR, hopefully they'll be more proactive and decisive.
In the afternoon we heard that Selekas had left Bouar, only for the Bocaranga it was a real disaster!
Here's the missionaries testimony:
Here in Bocaranga our mission is in the hands of the Selakas who just left Bouar to get to Chad. They're shooting all over the place with heavy weapons. Father Cipriano sent news that they shot as madmen, there are holes in the convent's walls. They stole cars, money, computers, phones, digital cameras.....they took everything away, it was terrible. A refugee woman has Ben killed, father Nestor has a wounded arm. They're saying this enemy columns are going to Ndim e Ngaoundaye. We just informed the monks there to watch out and take care. At this very moment the Selakas are shooting.
At 9 pm here in Bozoum more shooting. We were told only afterwards it was the MISCA trying to intimidate the Antibalakas

Wednesday and Thursday, the 22nd and 23rd of January 2014
All in all we heard twenty shots in 48 hours....could this be the beginning of tranquility?  We keep on having meetings with Antibalaks and people on these sensitive matters. I visited the Muslims and Peuls many times each day, many have lost everything after the rain sacks of the previous days. There's almost 2500 of them, they are scared and forced to live in harsh conditions indeed. I brought them water and 250 kg of rice the farmers sold me. The Pam rations had gone since a month. With OCHA and UNHCR we went to see what's left of the villages that Selekas had burned to the ground along the Bossangoa, Paua and Bouar routes. Antibalaks began to go back home to their villages and the people who fled to the forest are slowly coming back only to find their homes in ashes (so far we counted up to 1357 burned houses for a total of 6000 people)
 Few villages opened the schools. 
Here in Bozoum only our schools have students attending, I'm sure the others will follow eventually.

Friday, the 24th of January 2014
Quiet night. Few Antibalakas around demanding all Muslims to be gone....
Anyways, we kept on calming down people and tried to get some results. At 830 am I went to Bata, 7 km far, where there's an evangelic school. I brought 450 kg of rice. As they saw the car the women began to sing and dance out of sheer joy! 
We kept on meeting the Antibalaks inviting them to go home and maintain calm. With the Selekas gone there's no point in them staying here....moreover there's so much to be done now

la riapertura del mercato
la reprise du marché

Il bambino ha 7 mesi!!!
l'enfant a 7 mois!!!

la scuola... a Badali 2
l'école... à Badali 2

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Caotic days

Sunday 12th of January 2014
We heard a Ciadian truck was on its way here to help Bozoum's refugees leave this place if they wanted to.
At 1 pm the Misca from Paua contacted me to go and talk to the Antibalakas and prevent them to attack. We took this opportunity also to make the Seleka leave after their disarm.
We hoped this would have calmed down the situation and avoid the Antibalakas to attack and go back home to their villages, despite the 1300 houses burned to the ground.
In Bossangoa, Captain Sangaris, agreed with us.At 3 pm, i went to visit Colonel Yahaya, wounded and in bed. He was very weak, and i explained him the situation, asked him to lay down their weapons and return them to Ciad via Bangui. A big discussion arised afterwards among some of his men. Finally we left, hoping that they will accept this option which could save them, many Muslim and Bozoum. If they won't take this chance, the Antibalakas will go on fighting. After this meeting we went to the Imam to update him on the situation.

Monday, the 13th of January 2014
Today a convoy was supposed to leave, escorted by MISCA  and the Chadian troupes. The agreement was to let them leave along with the Selekas, after been disarmed. At 1 pm I had a doubt and decided to go check if they were leaving even without Selekas, therefore leaving the city unprotected. I explained they couldn't leave the city in their hands, or hey would have struck a vendetta. We came back and tried to discuss. Manu Muslims were against the Seleka's departure, they threatened me and began throwing stones at my car, some arrived with weapons, some tried to defend and protect me. Finally they agreed to leave here the FOMAC and then to move the convoy. I preceded them, up to 20 km, paying the Antibalakas not to attack the convoy which included 50 trucks and cars, and 100 bikes. About 3 pm while i was still in town, as they shot in the air a couple of times to distance the crowd out of the way, rumour had it I had been killed... So, once i came back at 6.15 it was as if the Messiah came back on Earth. Screaming, clothing laid down in front of the won't believe it. Finally i managed to quiet them down and thanked them. We prayed to Mary for those who just left us. both sides...

Tuesday, the 14th of January 2014

Quiet night. The first with non Selekas in Bozoum. They left on a convoy to Chad and in Paua they were disarmed by the Misca. 
Miscas patrolled during the night and left at 1 pm today leaving us unprotected. I hope there wont be troubles, they should be coming back tomorrow.
We left at 8.30 to Bossangoa. Last week several houses had been burned by the selekas. there were no Antibalakas here, we met up with some refugees in the Evangelic monks' church. we announced the Selekas had gone and they would be able to come home in a couple of days, and brought them 240 kg of rice. We set off on the Bangui road and met with two of the biggest Antibalaks groups, told them the news and set a date for tomorrow's meeting with Misca and mediation committee. At 4 pm I set off to Bocaranga - Paoua, met about a hundred Antbalaks. we talked for quite a while and we'll see each other again tomorrow first thing. The reason for all these meetings is to explain the Selekas departure, quiet them down and lay down their weapons.

Wednesday and Thursday  5th and 16th of January 2014

in the morning, after a mediation committee with the Northside Antibalakas, an OCHA mission (from the United Nation) and UNHCR (refugees committee) arrived along with BBC journalist. 
We all went in the afternoon on the Bangui road to meet with the Antibalakas. Jerome (the cathechist leased by the Selekas last week) also came. It was a long meeting, where we tried to send a peaceful message and to come back to a normal life. It's not easy.
In the evening I came across some Antibalakas carrying weapons on the Mission grounds, i took them away and asked not to come into towns with weapons anymore.
On Thursday morning at 6 am we celebrated Mass and the refugees began to go back home 
At 9 am on the Bossangoa road we met some Antibalakas and asked them to leave. We had only 11 Misca men, it wasn't easy.
In the afternoon we witnessed to plunders and violence from Antibalakas on the Muslim community and those who cooperated with the Selekas. We had an emergency meeting and decided to put a corfew from 8 pm to 5 am
After that I went and visited the Muslims who were scared to death and tried to calm them down. I walked home and on my way everyone i met i asked them to return their weapon.
I went into town after 8 pm, everything seemed a bit better. 
It is obvious we need a stronger military presence, Misca only left 11 men here and it's definitely not enough to begin safety protocols here or disarming (which is pressing matter)

Friday the 17th of January 2014
Confused day. In the morning everything seemed under control. Misca had been reinforced with a tank and a dozen men, they set up two checkpoints in town and seemed to be working. They began disarming Antibalaks. problem is they also took away their gri-gri (amulets) and this provoked them, the situation got worse. I went around like a headless chicken tried my best to counsel and support. at 10 am a big group was trying to get in. After a long discussion they seemed to back off. I went back to the Mission and they took the other roads to the city, found some weapons and began to attack the Miscas.
The action was quick, they were shooting in the air. 2.30 pm the situation seemed to calm down, we met at 3.30 and it seemed with good understanding. We expressed our worries about this situation, the tension, the plunders and violence caused ( at least 60 shops ransacked and 5 people wounded) We  listened to what they had to say, invited them to isolate the most violent element end the thieves, and tried to involve them in the safety procedures.
Tomorrow afternoon we'll try to set up a schedule, and to sign up conditions to stop violence and thefts. It won't be easy. At 9 pm tonight they called me because there had been a robbery despite the corfew. We found three armed young men. Managed to disarm them

Saturday, January 11, 2014

If the first week of the year is as this one......

Monday and Tuesday, 6th and 7th of January 2014
Two days rather calm. I went downtown to say hi to the Imams and check out the northern sides where some Peuls burnt down few houses, after the suspect of them hosting some Antibalakas....Neighbourhoods were empty, strangely so. And we could witness to the results of Sunday's attacks, there were more than 20 houses burned to the ground. The Red Cross has now certified that on the 6th Deceber the clashes between Selekas and Antibalakas caused more than 100 dead. During the night a child died tonight.Malaria?

Wednesady 8th of January 2014
I was in need of 300 litres of petrol for the antenna's phone company Orange which a mortorbike brought here from Paua. In the afternoon, with this excuse, I went in the outskirts to meet with the Antibalaks, now growing in numbers (400 only here) and more nervous. I presented them with the closing of the schools issue and the lack of food for the city due to closing of markets. Once more the usual refrain: we only want Selekas out of here and all Muslims lay down all weapons....they say after  this they will cease fire and peacefully return to their villages... 
At 6.30 pm they began shooting again downtown, but we are not sure what was going on, we heard heavy weapons fired, then screams of joy (of the Muslim side). Afterwards they told us that a Selekas general came here from Bangui, to reinforce the Bozoum's contingent. there are 6 to 10 cars and new rebels. No comment!

Thursday the 9th of January 2014
No shootings during the night, in the morning I went to the hospital and while I was there, about 50 Peuls armed of machetes, bows and 3 or 4 kalachnikovs are crossing the hospital grounds.they were going to the Ouhgam, the river, where the Selekas were. they went there to help out chasing the Antibalakas
Despite the distance, We heard shootings and about midday a huge smoke came from that direction: probably Slekas burned down villages over 5.30 pm the new Selekas arrived. There was a Police DGA and other Selekas from Ciad and Car. We had a meeting with them and few refugees attended as well.
They said they wanted people to go back home. We listened and then i took the floor. I told him since more than a month there are 3000 refugees at the Mission, they're very tired. They all want to go home, however, safety is needed. they're always threatened by the Selekas attacks and vendettas, they are afraid of Muslims who got weapons.
Also a man and a woman spoke, they were woried, scared and afraid of the Selekas. After few good opinions exchange we agreed to meet again the following day. Nevertheless we managed to talk. I even got a rise out of a Seleka, who was threatening some people to keep them at a distance. I told him to stop, because I do not allow certain behaviours. He leered at me the whole time. How many will stay? and, if they leave, will the Antibalakas come back? Finally: people don't trust them and one thing is for sure, until Selkas are here they won't go back home.

Friday 10th of January 2014
7.30 am: we were ready for the meeting. However, after 1 hour nobody showed up so we left.Eventually, at 9 the Selekas and the Imams arrived and we began the meeting. The police general, Adoum Rakis (!) spoke. He said they came for peace for everyone, that the government is really worried for Bozoum, that people should go home...bla,bla,bla.
People spoke, asking for guarantees, for people to be left alone, for Selekas to leave. they also asked why Peuls and Muslims have not been disarmed.
the "General" told they they had 2 names of civilian owing kalashnikovs (we have a list with more than 55 names.....)
I reminded that the main issue here are the Selekas, not the Antibalakas: if they leave, the Antibalakas will lay down their weapons and go back to farming. We also insisted on abuses that have been carried out. As a sign of cooperation the Selekas then released Ngaina Jerome, a catechist arrested on Wednesday, accused of being an Antibalaka, tortured almost to death....
Afterwards we discovered that few Selekas came in some of the villages as the  Fomac forces, confusing the people.
After the meeting we received news of president Michel Djotodjia and prime minister resigning. People were cautios, but there was a bit of joy in the air....
At 3 pm i went with the Red Cross up to the villages on the road to Paua and Bocaranga, where they fought yesterday, thankfully there were little deceased, however the Selekas vendetta reached and burned 440 houses out of 520 in the villages of Pont Ouham, Doussa, Camp 5 e Boyele.....what pain to see everything burned to the ground, and all the crop destroyed.
One singolar episode: in Boyele, a catechist locked his house with a padlock and a rosary: the Selekas left it untouched.
Tomorrow, if everything is ok, I will go check out the other villages on the way to Bangui.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

One month as refugees

Since the 6th of December we have been living with 3000 refugees here. Time goes by and all normal activities have been transformed. Schools, food, life itself. People are trying to adapt, despite the moments of fear and tension, when shootings get too close. But we keep on going, thanks to to the congeniality and praying of most of them, thank you all!

Tuesday 31st December
In the morning shootings everywhere in the village, until 1pm. Selekastried to attack Antibalakas in Bata, a village on the 7th km on the road to Bossangoa. Antibalakas managed to flee, Selekas didn't find them so they took it out on the civilians. They took away mattresses, motorbikes killed 4 or 5 people (one woman amongst them).
On their way back in Bozoum, Selekas shot in the air and the Antibalakas nearby tried to attack. The main issue is that the Antibalaks went up to the hospital, threatened the staff, hoping to find injured Selekas and kill them. Selekas arrived and fought in the hospital area itself.
Three things are to be noted:
-the Selekas attacks on civilians will only worsen the Antibalakas attitude and will make them even more dangerous and less inclined towards the other Muslims and Pelus
-the colonel of the Selkas has be wounded. He was one of the rare Selekas who could think a little....
-hospital personnel won't stay there after these facts and won't be able to perform their duties. How will we manage?

Wednesday, 1st of January 2014
Today went ok. People here at the mission are wishing happy new year. We aren't too convinced though.... 

Thursday, 2nd of  January 2014
Few shootings at 10 am. Selekas killed a young man, he was accused of being a spy.

Friday and Saturday, 3rd and 4th of January 2014
Rather quiet days.... On Saturday afternoon I went along with a nurse of the Red Cross, a shepherd and a teacher to meet the Antibalaks. We arrived at the village, there were many of them. They seemed quite nervous, as one of their leaders has been killed on the 31/12. They insulted us a little bit.....this time we sat down...and presented them with our reasons. We drew the attention on their shooting inside the hospital area, threatening the personnel and searched the rooms. Their chief agreed with us, but some of them were too upset and began to threaten us ....we left after one hour. We hope next time they'll spare the hospital grounds.

Sunday the 5th of January 2014
Badly awaken at 6.30 am this morning. Lasted a couple of hour. Then some calm. How long will this last?