Pope mulls cancelling visit
VATICAN — Pope Francis indicated on Sunday that his planned visit to the Central African Republic this month could be cancelled if violence between Christians and Muslims there worsens.
Speaking to tens of thousands of people in St Peter’s Square, he called for an end to the “cycle of violence” in the country he is scheduled to visit between 28-29 November as part of a trip that will also take him to Kenya and Uganda.
Francis spoke of the “trip I hope to be able to make to that nation”. He has previously simply said he would go.
A senior Vatican source said the phrasing was chosen because of the violence in the capital Bangui, where the pope is scheduled to visit a mosque in one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods.
“If the situation worsens, he will not be able to go and he is aware of that,” the source said.
Last Thursday, four people were killed by mobs, bringing last week’s death toll to 11, including three negotiators for the Muslim Seleka alliance visiting Bangui for peace talks.
Mostly-muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian nation in a coup in 2013, prompting reprisals by Christian militias known as anti-balaka.
Muslims and Christians have since split into segregated communities across the landlocked former French colony. Tens of thousands of Muslims have fled to the far north, creating a de facto partition.
Apart from threatening the pope’s visit, the violence might wreck plans to hold longdelayed elections in December.
On Thursday, interim President Catherine Samba Panza replaced the defence, public security and justice ministers as part of a cabi- net reshuffle.
The violence has flared despite the presence of thousands of UN peacekeepers who Vatican sources have said would be involved in protecting the pope if he visits. — Reuters GOMA — Fourteen aid workers were kidnapped on Sunday in the troubled east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, their employer said.
“Twelve researchers and two drivers returning from a fact-finding mission on the nutritional situation” in the Rutshuru area were kidnapped in the town of Katwiguru, the head of the Rural Development Centre, Paul Muhasa, told AFP.
The town is around 120km northeast of Goma, the North Kivu capital and the re- gion’s main city.
“The identity of the assailants is not yet known,” Muhasa said by telephone from Goma.
The development agency trains farmers in a partnership with the UN World Food Programme in Rutshuru.
Speaking by telephone from Rutshuru, deputy administrator Liberata Burotwa said she suspected rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda of being behind the abduction.
The Rwandan Hutu rebels, some of whom are accused of taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, are regularly accused of serious crimes against civilians in eastern DRC.
On Monday, several eastern towns were paralysed by a stay-at-home protest to pressure the government to act following a stabbing attack by Rwandan rebels that left three seriously injured.