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|Ivory Coast – The Salesians and the situation of social conflict|
From the headquarters of the Vice Province in Abidjan Fr Antonio César Fernandes, Secretary of the “French-speaking West Africa” Vice Province told the Sir Agency that fear has not ended with the victory of Ouattara: “We have spent two terrible weeks during the siege of the Presidential Palace here in Abidjan, but the people are not happy going out into the streets since things are not yet calm: shooting can still be heard and there is still violence and looting.”
“People are beginning to go out, but they are afraid because they have been through terrible stress,” he continues. “The curfew is still in force and in spite of the promises of Ouattara on TV, there are no police and the young patriotic supporters of Gbabgo are going around and shots continue to be heard. We are afraid of further conflict between the two factions.” The situation is still very complicated, and although water and electricity services are working again there is a great shortage of bread, gas and coal, and the fact that the banks are still closed after 2 months creates major problems.
The situation of the 20-25,000 refugees at the “Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus” mission in Duékoué is still desperate: “At present things are slowly becoming “normal”, Fr Vicente Grupeli has told the “Noticias Positivas” Agency “since we now have water for 6 hours during the day and some humanitarian agencies are supplying food. But people can’t be kept in these conditions, they are literally living in the mud surrounded by excrement.”
The Salesians in Duékoué are making a strong appeal for greater involvement by the international agencies which so far have been far to slow in responding to the humanitarian emergency. In the early days when the flow of refugees began to be overwhelming, all the missionaries were able to provide were high energy biscuits for the children; and even now working methods are slow and cumbersome and unable to respond to the immediate needs of the large number of people.
In the meantime with reference also to videos and news circulating uncontrolled on the Internet, Salesian community in the Ivory Coast has issued a statement confirming that within the mission in Duékoué there have not been any killings or violence (although in the surrounding districts there have been); and also that the conflict has not had a religious nature but rather political, tribal and economic.
“Religion, we believe, has nothing at all to do with all this.” Fr Grupeli adds. “In these months there have been massacres on both sides and no one’s hands are clean,” declares Fr Fernandes.