Central African Republic (MNN) — The Central African Republic’s first Muslim President Michel Djotodia stepped down Friday in a bid to calm the tensions threatening to rip the nation from its moorings.
In the wake of the move, widespread looting and violence were reported in the capital, Bangui, even as Djotodia fled to Benin.
However, is a vacuum in leadership the best thing for peace in a post-coup African nation? Jim Snyder serves in crisis response for ReachGlobal Africa. He says, “His departure from office is really not providing any particular solution, but it is moving us closer to the potential for some reprieve in the country.”
Snyder adds that Djotodia was originally put in office by the Muslim Seleka movement that orchestrated a coup out of Chad in March. Now, “The next step would be that there would be a leader that would be appointed by some sort of committee that has been put in place. So until that happens, there’s really not going to be any movement forward.”
Djotodia was replaced by Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet who called for calm and promised to bring a swift end to the “anarchy” that has gripped the country. Talks began yesterday to figure out the process of electing a new acting president.
However, Snyder notes that even getting an election on the calendar doesn’t wholly address the problem. There have never been authority structures in CAR outside of the approval of a Western nation. As no one has surfaced as a viable leader, the country remains up for grabs, and violent power struggles ensue. “Until we see a strong leader (someone that is able to step up into that role) surface, we’re not going to see anybody get behind him.”
With the current dispute at a lull, the real toll becomes apparent. The United Nations estimates that thousands of people have been killed, close to a million displaced, and 2.2 million are now in need of humanitarian aid.
That’s especially true in the city centers where fighting was fiercest, like Bangui. Snyder says, “Our primary partner there is the Bangui Evangelical School of Theology which is currently housing in excess of 700 people who are displaced and are looking for a place of refuge.” For now, it’s the walls that surround the campus that make it a place of safety, similar to those of the United Nations compounds.
While the school is facing the crisis, how is it affecting leadership training? “The whole issue of even the school being able to function is something that they’re addressing right now. So as leadership meets and addresses that reality, continue to pray for the Lord to guide them.”
Not only is the school responding, but also numerous churches are harboring those who have fled the violence, providing food and water. Snyder describes a growing challenge. “The reality is that food and water and all of the things needed for livelihood are increasing now in cost. As these people are now out of their homes, the actual cost of keeping these people supported and alive continues to escalate each day.”
No resolution will come quickly in either country. Churches and the Seminary in Bangui will be burdened to assist those in need. Resources are limited, and prices are escalating. It is impossible to send foodstuffs or supplies, but they remain available in-country.
Right now, prayer is highest on the need list. When they ask us to “pray for Gospel opportunities,” ReachGlobal partners mean, “Ask the Lord of heaven and earth to afford His Church opportunities to be salt and light amidst this very dark surrounding.” They’re praying for what they need in order to share a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name.
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