Polish Catholic Missionary Kidnapped in Central African Republic Now Free
A Cameroonian army operation has freed 16 hostages, including a Polish Catholic priest, who were abducted by rebels from Central African Republic last month,Cameroon’s government said on Wednesday. Mateusz Dziedzic, a priest who has been a missionary since 2009, was abducted by eight armed men on the night of Oct. 12 in the town of Baboua. The kidnappers, belonging to a rebel group known as the Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC), demanded the release of their leader, who is imprisoned in Cameroon.
“A special operation of Cameroonian defence and security forces permitted the liberation last night of 15 Cameroonian hostages …as well as the Polish priest Mateusz Dziedzic,” Cameroon’s army said in a statement. The FDPC, headed by Abdoulaye Miskine, is one of a number of armed groups that has fought the Central African Republic government and also each other in an off-on conflict in the former French colony over the past decade.
Central African Republic Losing the Next Generation
The Central African Republic has been unsettled since 2013. First, the Seleka rebel group ousted the government. The Seleka fighters were mostly Muslim. Christian militias answered with rebel attacks. Thousands of people have been killed in the fighting. Millions have been forced from their homes.
Among the victims are children whose parents died or have gone missing. For these boys and girls, joining an armed group is one of the only ways to find protection.
A boy named Jerome said he joined a militia when an opposing group attacked his village. Some people were burned in their homes. Others were shot when they sought to run away. I’ll never forget that day,” he says. “The Seleka killed my uncle. That pushed me to join the anti-balaka militia.” The anti-balaka is a coalition of armed groups opposed to the Seleka rebels. Another boy, Serge, joined the anti-balaka just before it attacked the capital in December 2013.
He says, “I was a good fighter. Fearless. The commander liked me. Serge says he is 17 years old. But he has a boy’s face and a thin body. He looks much younger. Most children in the armed groups are teenagers. Some are younger than 10.
Serge says children’s ages and sizes help to determine their positions in the armed groups. Strong boys such as Serge might become fighters. Younger children clean up. Judith Léveillée is a deputy representative of UNICEF, the United Nations’ Children’s Fund. She said the number of children who are part of armed groups has risen over the past few months. She says that up to 10,000 children have ties to the armed groups. Some have been part of the militias for two years.
Central African Republic women stage topless protest sectarian violence
Residents say hundreds of women have marched topless through a town in the Central African Republic to protest sectarian violence.
Saturday’s unusual demonstration occurred in the southeastern town of Zemio, with the women saying that going partially nude would bring a curse on those responsible for the violence. The fighting in the country between Christian and Muslim militias has killed at least 5,000 people this year and displaced thousands.
This week it reached Zemio, wounding about 10 people and displacing most of the local population, which contains Christians and Muslims. The Central African Republic has been rocked by violence since a rebel coalition toppled the nation’s president last year. Widespread human rights abuses committed by the coalition led to the formation of a Christian militia.