Pope mulls can­celling visit

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

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.

— AFP

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