By BosNewsLife Africa Service
BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (BosNewslife)– Devoted Christians are among those awaiting the arrival of additional peacekeepers in the troubled Central African Republic to help restore security after violence linked to rebels killed at least seven believers during an evangelical church service, and over a dozen others elsewhere in the capital Bangui.
There have also been reports of widespread shootings in other churches and looting of Christian properties in violence blamed on Séléka rebels, who recently ousted President Francois Bozize.
In one of the most serious incidents last weekend, three shells launched by Séléka forces from the Boy-Rabe district in the capital landed in the neighboring Cité Jean 23 area and hit the Evangelical Federation of Brothers, Christians said.
“Two shells landed on the church building and another one landed in the church yard,” said pastor Mbaye-Bondoi, in published remarks. He said many children were among the injured being transferred to a pediatric hospital.
The pastor himself, who also is the general Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance in Central African Republic, was reportedly hurt in his right ear, but the injury was not life-threatening, he said.
Separately at least 20 people reportedly died since last week after gun battles in several sectors of Bangui, where the Séléka alliance of rebel groups took power last month.
There was no official confirmation from rebels, but local church leaders seemed to rule out cross-fire as another reason for the latest casualties.
The situation wasn’t much better outside the capital with reports of fighting and theft by rebel forces.
“The plundering continues, day and night, at any time. The terrified people do not flee, but weep, and try to defend the little they still have,” Bishop Juan-José Aguirre Muñoz of the Diocese of Bangassou said in a statement distributed by Catholic relief group ‘Aid to the Church in Need’. Bangassou is located in the east of the nation, on the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The statements, monitored by BosNewsLife Saturday, April 20, come while neighbors agreed to send an extra 2,000 troops to help restore security following last month’s rebel takeover.
‘WOUND IN AFRICA’
The move was agreed at a regional summit in Chad, whose president described the Central African Republic as a “wound in the heart of central Africa”.
Yet, it isn’t easy for peacekeepers, amid concerns that even child soldiers have been even used in some of the heaviest fighting in the battle for Bangui. They directly engaged troops from South Africa in and around the capital from March 22-24, according to South African soldiers who survived the fighting that left 13 of their comrades dead.
“It was only after the firing had stopped that we saw we had killed kids. We did not come here for this, to kill kids,” one paratrooper later told the Sunday Times newspaper in South Africa. “It makes you sick. They were crying calling for help . calling for (their) moms.”
South African Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the soldiers from her country had no choice but to shoot back at the children who were firing at them.
“If our soldiers were attacked by children they were correct to defend themselves,” she said in comments monitored by The Associated Press (AP) news agency. “If a child shoots at you, are you going to … blow kisses?”