Thursday, December 21, 2006


MBOKI, 21 Dec 2006 (IRIN)

MBOKI, 21 Dec 2006 (IRIN) - South Sudanese refugees in the Central African Republic (CAR) have begun returning home on repatriation flights following a two-year wait for the security situation back home to improve, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said.Some 10,000 southern Sudanese refugees who fled across the border in the early 1990s have been living in camps and villages around Mboki in the remote southeastern corner of CAR, waiting for an end to Sudan’s north-south war. That war ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Sudanese government and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in January 2005.Relief workers said hundreds of refugees have been picking their way across the barren plains on foot and bicycle over the last few months, spurred on by a pledge by the south Sudan authorities that former government officials who return before January would be reinstated.Refugees will be flown across the barren brush-land three times a week in groups of 150 as part of the organised repatriation, UNHCR said.The first of the 30-minute flights started on Friday to the administrative town of Tambura, but more destinations will be offered later, and operations could wrap up by the end of March 2007.Anthony Mongo, 50, a leader of the refugee community, said life had been especially difficult over the last two years, as the refugees waited nervously for news of the patchy security situation in south Sudan. "Many people stopped cultivating once they heard they would be going home in 2005. When tribal conflicts and insecurity started up again, they were forced to eat wild yams and roots," he said.Christopher Hann, head of the UNHCR in Tambura said challenges remain for the homecomers. "Tambura is a remote place so basic services are limited and the government is still rebuilding itself," he said.Joseph Kangirora, 26, who has been in CAR since he was 10, said his excitement about going back to see family members who stayed in Sudan is mixed with trepidation as he prepares to leave the only world he has known in his adult life."I have spent so long here I don’t know how it is over there now," he said. "But home is still in Sudan."


KAGA BANDORO, 19 Dec 2006 (IRIN, the sequel)

KAGA BANDORO, 19 Dec 2006 (IRIN) - Around Dikba Elisi’s oldest child’s neck is a plastic whistle, so that if the family is forced to flee into maize fields and the children get lost, the adults have a better chance of finding them. Elisi, her three young children and sister, are living under two pieces of tin they salvaged, sleeping on a single bed, hidden in swaying fields three kilometres behind their old village. Another attack, she said, was unlikely - there was nothing left to burn or steal since the family’s straw-roofed shack was razed to the ground in mid-November and all the family’s furniture, food and money were stolen. "All you see here is what we saved - the rest was burned or stolen," Elisi said.The family is among 220,000 people estimated by the United Nations in its 2007 funding appeal to have been displaced internally in the Central African Republic (CAR) and into Chad and Cameroon as a result of conflict. About 45,000 refugees are in southern Chad, living in four sites at Amboko, Yaroungou, Gondje and Dosseye run by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.On a trip through the north-central region of CAR last week, in village after village IRIN saw the charred ruins of houses and harvests. On the road north of the government-controlled town of Kaga Bandoro, 300 km north of Bangui, the capital, aid agencies counted 1,700 houses burned on one stretch less than 100 km long, with thousands more believed to have been targeted elsewhere.There is no front-line in this war - just villages in areas held by non-government forces; those held by army loyalists; and the zones in between. The porous boundary between them has shifted steadily south and east since armed raids first started around the northern CAR towns of Paoua, Markounda and Boguila in June 2005.By April this year the rebel movement had a name: l’Armée populaire pour la restauration de la république et la démocratie (APRD), headed by Lt Bedaya N’Djadder, a former gendarme who defected from the government’s service. In October, another front opened up in the remote northeast of the country, with a new movement, the Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR), which has said it is protesting against the ‘exclusionist’ policy of the CAR government, claiming it has an ethnic bias. According to diplomats and analysts, the CAR is now split into two distinct geographical zones - the sparsely populated northeast, and the heavily populated north-central area, the focus of current fighting. A third dynamic is in the remote far west of CAR on the border with Cameroon. There, banditry and kidnappings have prompted 30,000 people to flee into Cameroon.Since the beginning of November, the regular army has been burning villages around Kaga Bandoro, say local villagers. "About 2,000 houses were set on fire on the road between Kaga Bandoro and Ouandago," Albert Vambuel, the archbishop of Kaga Bandoro, told IRIN.The government denies the accusations. In an interview on 14 December, Colonel Jean Christophe Bureau, the prefect of the town of Kaga Bandoro, said the rebels were living with villagers who refuse to collaborate with the national army to restore order in the region. "The army is using rockets and mortars to retaliate and these weapons sometimes burnt houses," he said, rejecting allegations that the army deliberately set fire to houses.
Vambuel added that agricultural produce was also destroyed in the fires. "The rebels are in areas well known by the army but the soldiers do not want to go after them," he said, adding that rebels were using villagers as a shield.According to Refugees International, in a statement on 14 December, conditions are dire for displaced people who desperately need shelter, food, healthcare, clothing, blankets, soap, and potable water. The absence or limited availability of clean water and medical care has also raised the risk of diseases such as malaria and typhoid. In Kaga Bandoro, about 600 families had moved from their villages into the town. "We are caring for 3,000 displaced people to whom we are distributing food such as soya, sugar and cooking oil," said Jean-Blaise Nguepoukpoudou, the head of the Catholic humanitarian NGO, CARITAS.CARITAS said it needed more supplies. It had received 18 tonnes of food from the United Nations World Food Programme. Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) is also distributing food, despite the difficulties in gaining access to some areas after rebels destroyed bridges. "Security is the main need," Teresa San Cristobal of MSF. "There is an absolute lack of protection." Refugees International urged government to stop the army, including the presidential guard, from committing human-rights abuses, and to hold perpetrators accountable. "People are subsisting on mostly cassava and wild roots since some of the markets have been destroyed by bandits and agriculture has been interrupted by the insecurity," it noted while calling on international agencies to respond to the crisis. For a country with a life expectancy of 41 years, which is ranked 169 out of 175 countries on the Human Development Index, the situation in the north-central region only makes matters worse. At the launch of the appeal for US$49.5 million for humanitarian projects in CAR in 2007, on 30 November, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stated: "Regional dynamics and the success or failure of democratic consolidation and socio-economic recovery make the CAR one of the world’s most fragile yet unknown crises, and potentially a hotspot threatening international peace and security in Central Africa."For Elisi and her children living out in the open fields, exposed and scared, there is no hope of returning home yet. "We are cold, the children are hungry, and we are all getting sick. We cannot go back to the village, but we cannot stay here. I do not know what we will do," she told IRIN.


KAGA BANDORO, 19 Dec 2006 (IRIN)

KAGA BANDORO, 19 Dec 2006 (IRIN) - The burning and looting of villages across north-central Central African Republic (CAR) has scattered thousands of civilians from their homes while the rebels and the army blame each other for aggravating the situation.

"The villagers are being held hostage by the rebels," Col Jean Christophe Bureau, prefect of Kaga Bandoro, 300 km north of the capital, Bangui, said. "Their animals and food are being stolen. All the villages were burned by the rebels."

Bureau, who is officially in charge of the region, insisted that government troops had often come under fire when passing through villages in the area. "A highly intense military operation is needed to overcome rebellion in the region", including air strikes, he said.

A well-placed non-governmental official who did not want to be identified told IRIN in Kaga Bandoro: "Both the army and the rebels say their goal is to help. But if the villagers tell the army where the rebels are, they will later be attacked by them; if the army is attacked they will blame the nearest village for supporting the rebel groups."

Local civilians say they are being targeted because the government accuses them of harbouring fighters of l’Armée populaire pour la restauration de la république et la démocratie (APRD), a group headed by renegade Lt Bedaya N’Djadder. Over the past two years, the group has attacked and seized control of several towns in the CAR.

Armed with a very old gun, Mizohongo Natouhonjo said a year ago he was an economics student at Bangui University. Pulling out his university enrolment card as proof, Natouhonjo said he had joined the rebels because "our villages were being burned. I could not stay there and do nothing, so I decided to come here and die with them."

Another man, carrying a solar-charged satellite phone and escorted by men with machetes and grenades, identified himself as a senior APRD commander in the Kaga Bandoro region. He said the movement was formed as a response to the CAR army’s attacks on villages, and had no support from outside the country, nor links to the CAR’s former president, Ange-Félix Patassé.

The CAR government has accused Patassé, who was deposed by François Bozize in 2003 with the backing of neighbouring Chad, of supporting the rebels. The government has also linked the rebellion to Sudan, an accusation denied by the Sudanese government.

"We move around by foot, how could we have contact with anyone outside?" asked the APRD commander. "The time of Patassé is over. Our goal is that the government finds a solution to stop the destruction of villages."

Villages in the crossfire

While the accusations and counter-accusations fly, civilians suffer. Around Kaga Bandoro, the two health centres, which had served more than 13,000 people, have been looted and burned. Schools appear to have been spared the burning, but none was open.

According to local villagers, the army strategy to destroy villages to dislodge rebels is continuing. "On 3 December, our village was burnt down by the army who accused people living here of collaborating with the rebels," said Jonas Andjeligaza, the deputy village chief in Zoumbeti, 50 km south of Kaga Bandoro.

Two old men who were in their houses when the army arrived in the village were burnt to death, he claimed.

Along the road linking Kaga Bandoro and Kabo to the northwest, about 30 villages had reportedly been burnt down in fighting between the army and the APRD. "The national army arrived here and set houses on fire after firing in the air to scare villagers who ran into the bush," said Jerome Yamissi, 50. "The army used mortars and rockets and some farms in the village were destroyed," he added, insisting he had never seen a single rebel fighter in his village.

Friday, December 15, 2006


Bericht uit Mobaye (van de vliegende pater Helmut)

Mobaye le 14 décembre 2006

Cher Hans,

Je te remerci pour les mots de condoléances à l'occasion de la mort subite de
Père Bernard. Il est revenu le 18 novembre avec deux membres de sa famille et
le 26 novembre nous avons fêté ses 40 ans de prêtrise dans notre belle église.
Il était en forme comme rarement avant. Il a fait encore une visite dans un
village de brousse avec ses membres de famille et le 30 novembre j'ai emmené le
deux visiteurs par voiture à Bangui, faute de notre avion qui n'est pas
fonctionnel à cause de l'hélice.
Les visiteurs sont partis samedi le 2 décembre; lundi le 4 déc. j'ai pu obtenir une permission spéciale d'un mois pour notre avion. Mardi j'ai volé à Mobaye et j'ai trouvé Bernard dans un état
Le lendemain je l'ai emmené à Bangui; on a fait les examens, mais
le radio nous a montré un grand trou blanc dans le poumon; la moitie à droit
était practiquement inexistante. Il a eu un enchainement de cause comme
paralysie des jambes à cause d'une flébite et finalement le 9 déc. vers 4
heures il est décédé.
Hier nous avons fait l'enterrement avec uns foule immense et une tristesse
vraie et profonde. Nous sommes un peu fatigués après tous ces évènements.
L'évèque reste ici à Mobaye pour donner un coup de main.
Nous étions bien surpris quand "Pilotes sans frontières" ont rappellé Mario
d'urgence en Europe. Il y'avait une Rebellion vers le nord, mais personnes n'a
parlé d'une insécurité.
Maintenant c'est de nouveau moi qui prend la responsabilité de vols. L'hélice n'est pas encore venu et nous sommes déjà deux mois après la date d'expiration. J'espère qu'on fait tout pour que la pièce vient vite.
Merci encore et mes souhaits pour la fête de Noel. Salutations à toi ton épouse et Daniel, qui reste dans la mémoire des enfants ici.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Ter verklaring ...

De overleden pere Ben was de direkteur van de katholieke missie vliegdienst in de Centraal Afrikaanse Republiek.

De problemen met de propeller van het vliegtuig zijn tijdelijk van de baan : er is een maand extensie verkregen, waardoor er doorgevlogen kan worden tot de nieuwe propeller arriveert.

Nu Mario vertrokken is, terwijl Bas - de gedoodverfde opvolger - nog niet is gearriveerd, neemt pater Helmut de zaken waar - zowel in de rol van piloot als in de rol van directeur.

Wordt vervolgt ...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


pere Ben is overleden

Vanuit de C.A.R. :


Mauvaise nouvelle : le P. Ben est décédé ce matin à Bangui.
Je t'en diari plus plus tard.




Vanuit het hoofdkwartier van de Spiritijnen :

Beste Albertine,

Even een kort bericht: vanmorgen rond vier uur is in Bangui Ben van Breen overleden; er was al een vliegtuig uit Duitsland gekomen van Europ Assistance om hem naar Nederland te brengen, maar het hoefde niet meer.
Hij was sinds een paar dagen in Bangui met een verlamming aan de onderbenen: we weten niet precies wat hij heeft gehad, maar het lijkt op een soort hersenbloeding. Gisteren heeft hij rond half twaalf nog gebeld en toevallig was ik aan de poort; hij zei me toen dat het heel slecht ging; dat de dokter die met het vliegtuig meekwam (rond vier uur 's middags) hem zou onderzoeken en dat ze dan zouden besluiten, wanneer het vliegtuig weer kon vertrekken.

Op het ogenblik weet ik niet hoe het verder gaat met de AMBB, maar ik veronderstel dat Helmut het overneemt.

Er zal wel een gedachtenisdienst zijn hier in Gemert, maar daar krijgen jullie zeker bericht van.

Hartelijke groeten

Otto van den Brink


Pere Ben is ineens erg ziek geworden

Gelukkig mag - ondanks een propeller met verlopen houdbaarheidsdatum - wel weer gevlogen worden :

Bonsoir Hans,

Un court message car je suis très fatigué. Le P. Ben est très mal. Un avion est venu de Hollande pour le rappatrier demain matin. Il est comme paralysé des 2 jambes. Heureusement, l'avion peut voler pour 1 mois. Et on peut dire que cela a sauvé la vie de Ben.
Pour le pays, c'est dur. Je viens d'apprendre qu'au Km 12, il y a eu des bagarres violentes entre musulmans et FACA. Sinon, pour le reste, çà va un peu.
Amitiés à Hanneke et Daniel,

à bientôt,


Monday, December 11, 2006


Mario heeft het zinkende schip verlaten.

Hij kon toch niet vliegen vanwege een propeller met verlopen houdbaarheidsdatum en het werd al minder gezellig.
Inmiddels lijkt het tij op beide fronten te keren :

BANGUI, 11 Dec 2006 (IRIN) - The army has recaptured a town in the northeast of the Central African Republic (CAR), the last of several held by rebels since November, a spokesman for President François Bozize said on Monday.

"The town of Ouadda-Djalle was recaptured on Sunday without any fighting," Cyriaque Gonda, the spokesman, told IRIN.

The recapture of Ouadda-Djalle, in the northern prefecture of Vakaga, ends the occupation of areas in the northeast by a rebel coalition known as Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement (UFDR), which began operations on 30 October by capturing the town of Birao, the provincial capital of Vakaga. Ouadda-Djalle is 110 km south of Birao.

Efforts to contact ‘Capt’ Diego Albator Yao, the rebel in charge of UFDR's military operation, have failed since the army recaptured Ouadda-Djalle.

The rebels have said they resorted to arms to protest against the "exclusionist policy" of Bozize's government, claiming that since seizing power from President Ange-Felix Patasse in March 2003, Bozize had ruled on an ethnic basis.

Besides Ouadda-Djalle and Birao, the army, with the help of French troops, has also recaptured the towns of Ouadda, Sam-Ouandja and Ndele. France provided the CAR army with military assistance after a request by Bozize to the country's former colonial power to help it quell the rebellion in the north and northeast.

Six jet fighters and four helicopters were used to chase rebels from the towns they controlled. Moreover, troops of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) backed the army in clearing the rebels out of towns such as Ouadda and Sam-Ouandja. Military sources in the capital, Bangui, said 300 French soldiers and 380 CEMAC troops took part in the operation.

On Monday, Gonda said: "The loyal forces have victoriously re-conquered all the towns controlled by rebels, who are currently on the run."

However, many Bangui residents were reluctant to believe that the army had recaptured all the towns held by the rebels.

François Bassole, a driver, expressed concern for the country's future. "The government has announced the army is in control of the whole country but the rebels are still in the bush; who knows, they can come back again," he said.

An army major, who requested anonymity, held a similar view. He said problems remained, despite the towns' recapture. "It is a good thing to re-conquer all these towns but the most difficult task looms ahead - clearing the region of these armed men," he said.

Since late October when rebel activity intensified in the north, the government has been accusing Sudan of backing UFDR. In November, the CAR authorities claimed the rebels who had captured the towns were from Sudan's Darfur region, denied by the Sudanese authorities. The rebels, for their part, have also said they have no connection with Sudan.

The rebel activity in the north has caused the displacement of thousands of civilians, who fled their homes in fear of violence. Some of the displaced are said to have crossed the border into Sudan in search of security while others are hiding in the bush. There have been reports of rape in the affected areas.

The government and the UFDR have accused each other of perpetrating human-rights abuses in the region.

So far, no humanitarian organisation has a precise assessment of the plight of civilians in the area, as no relief organisation has been able to enter the region since the rebels captured Birao.

The public information officer of the UN resident humanitarian affairs coordinator, Maurizio Giuliano, told IRIN on Monday that some relief organisations had flown to Birao on Sunday. However, he did not have any more details.


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