Despite uncertainties, the climate at election time is more serene thanks to Pope Francis’ recent visit


After much agonising, the people of the Central African Republic are about to vote. The presidential and legislative elections, initially planned for 18 October and then 27 December, are expected to take place this week. Contrary to what happened in October, when the elections had to be postponed because of serious clashes, this time the delay is due to simple technical problems or the non-delivery of the material to set up polling stations in all constituencies. “For now the situation seems calm; we will see what will happen during the night and tomorrow” Father Federico Trinchero, Carmelite missionary of Carmel in Bangui, told Aid to the Church in Need.

A cause for concern is above all what happened on 13 December, during the constitutional referendum. “It seemed more like disruptive action rather than fighting”  explains Fr Trincero “and was the only dramatic incident that occurred after the the Pope’s visit to this day. Since then we have not heard the sound of gunfire. “

The Central Africans are preparing to choose between 30 candidates, a number that is undoubtedly excessive but certainly lower than the 70 candidates that were expected in October. “At the moment no candidate appears to have advantage. The population has a great desire for change, but is now greatly disillusioned. Many of the candidates are compromised by their past and instead of promoting ideas they confine themselves to demagoguery and populism “.

 Father Trinchero is pinning the hopes of the country on young people, who represent more than half of the population. “There’s a generation of youths who are tired of the current way of governing and looking at the progress made by other African nations in terms of democracy and rights. Maybe it won’t  emerge in this election, but I am convinced that it will happen soon. “

Despite the uncertainties and difficulties, the Central African Republic continues to “enjoy the grace” of Pope Francis‘ visit and the indisputable benefits that this has brought. “The Central Africans are very proud. From being bottom of the class we have become the spiritual capital of the world and the images of the opening of the Holy Door in the Cathedral of Bangui were transmitted by all the international media. But the most important result of all was a radical change. Finally there is a peaceful atmosphere”.

In the capital and surrounding areas the atmosphere is relaxed, even in the now infamous Km5 district which the archbishop of the city, Bishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga, visited recently. “A few days ago I also visited the Km5 district for the first time in months and I must say that the change was evident. As much as the destruction caused by violent clashes in September and October, which destroyed numerous homes and forced many to flee”.

Because of the violence of recent months, the number of refugees at the Carmelites in Bangui rose from 2000 to 5000. However, thanks to the more relaxed atmosphere they were able to spend the ‘first Christmas without gunfire.’ “For the first time we celebrated Mass at 7 pm in complete peace –  another gift of Pope Francis’ visit”.

Marta Petrosillo (ACN Italy)