Amid the violence instigated by the armed rebels, the Spanish-born Bishop Aguirre Muñoz has helped secure refuge for some of the children caught up in the chaos.
“You look them in the eye and they know nothing about rebels, mercenaries, struggles for power ... They only hear the gunshots and explosions. And they are very frightened,” said the 66-year-old bishop, a member of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus.
“There are many children injured by stray bullets, children who are trying to flee to Congo to escape the violence,” the bishop said.
The Jan. 3 attack on Bangassou came a day after another assault on Damara, the hometown of the incumbent president, Faustin-Archange Touadera, who was declared the winner of the Dec. 27 elections. Damara is about 50 miles north of the capital.
The presidential elections had been held amid insecurity and political tensions.
Provisional results announced by the Central African Republic’s electoral commission Jan. 4 show that Touadera secured over 53 percent of the votes.
Matthias Morouba, the president of the country’s electoral commission, declared Touadera the winner, given that he received an absolute majority in the election’s first round, Reuters reports.
The country’s constitutional court had previously rejected the presidential candidacy of former president François Bozizé, who had wanted to challenge President Touadera. Bozizé is an ally of the rebels.
On Dec. 19, a coalition of armed rebel groups under the auspices of a group called the Coalition of Patriots for Change launched an offensive, intending to march on the national capital of Bangui. The action threatened to disrupt the presidential elections, Al Jazeera reported.
The rebels are now believed to control two-thirds of the country. They have been prevented from advancing on Bangui by the military, UN peacekeepers, and reinforcements from Russia and Rwanda.
Bishop Aguirre Muñoz told Fides that he fears “the aggressiveness of these mercenaries, who are looking for natural resources and wealth.”
“How can you give a tender look in the midst of so much violence?” he asked.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Ahead of the vote, the Central African Episcopal Conference had cautioned against political alliances comprising armed groups.
In their Dec. 19 statement, the Catholic bishops urged the government to prioritize “dialogue and national consensus in strict compliance with the constitutional order.”
“We, the Bishops of the Central African Republic, condemn any politico-military alliances aimed at destabilizing the democratic system, paralyzing socio-political and economic life and damaging the peace and well-being of the Central African people,” the bishops said.
The Jan. 3 attack on Bangassou came at a time when the Bangassou diocese had started several reconstruction projects.
“Now we will have to start many of these over again. There are many traumas that need to be healed,” the bishop lamented.
“We will have to adapt to a new regime,” Bishop Aguirre Muñoz said. “We hope that attacks and looting are avoided.”