The situation in the Central African Republic is deteriorating dramatically, according to a Catholic missionary working in the country.
Fr Aurelio Gazzera told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need that “the situation is getting worse and worse” in the north-westerly Archdiocese of Bouar.
The Italian Carmelite priest said: “Events have occurred thick and fast in recent days, and the aggressiveness of the rebels has increased.”
Fr Gazzara reported that more than 3,500 houses have been burned down in Bohong and the bodies of those killed are still lying in the streets.
Heavy fighting began in and around the town of Bossangoa on Sunday, September 8, and at least 60 people lost their lives over the following days.
Fr Gazzara said: “The situation is very confusing. On the one hand it is said that supporters of the deposed former President Bozize have been fighting against the Séléka.
“On the other hand, an eye-witness who fled on foot from Bossangoa to Bozoum [where there is a Carmelite mission station] reported to me that it all began with fighting between the Séléka and young inhabitants of the town.”
More than 30,000 people, around 80 per cent of the inhabitants of Bossangoa, fled, he said.
Fr Gazzera said that the region has an “extremely dangerous mixture of different armed groupings and an increasing propensity to violence by the Séléka rebels” who seized power in March of this year.
The missionary, who has been working in the Central African Republic for 20 years, also expressed concerned about worsening relations between Muslims and Christians.
He said that in the attacks of the past week “not one single Muslim house was burned down”, adding that he had been told young Muslims pointed out to rebels which buildings to torch or loot.
Fr Gazzera said: “It is as if the coup in March has brought out the worst that is in people’s hearts. It is difficult to say how things will develop. It is possible that fighting may break out again.
“But even now, reconstruction will take years: the reconstruction of buildings, but also – what is even more important – the inner reconstruction of the people.
“The people feel bitter, but they also bear their burden with great dignity. Despite everything, one sees no hatred or anger against those who have brought these sorrows upon them. But the people are also very tired, because nothing is working. The state is absent.
“People fear the future and cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel. And it seems as though nobody hears all of this and that nothing is being done to solve it.
“But at the same time there is great faith: the sentence that one hears most often is ‘Nzapa a yeke’ – ‘God is there’.”