By Stan Friedman
GAMBOULA, CAR (January 17, 2014) — Covenant missionary Roy Danforth says he believes the Central African Republic (CAR), which he and other missionaries had fled amid violence last March, is slowly starting to return to normalcy.
More than 1,000 people died in sectarian violence after rebels overthrew the government and installed Michel Djotodia to be the nation’s first Muslim leader. After Djotodia disbanded the rebels, they continued to attack Christians, who responded by forming vigilante groups.
Last week, neighboring countries induced Djotodia to step down. Parliament will hold a special session to elect a new interim leader.
None of the violence ultimately touched the agriculture project, sponsored by Covenant World Relief and led by Roy and Aleta Danforth. The nearby hospital was filled at one point with wounded from both sides in the sectarian conflict.
The recent murder of a local policeman by a rebel soldier almost caused another evacuation but ultimately led to actions that demonstrated the country may be on the road to healing. Word quickly spread by cellphones about the killing.
“We, the missionaries, went with our urgent evacuation plan and gathered our already packed backpacks and carry-on luggage with our valuables, and most of us were directed by our African leaders to wait this out at the hospital,” says Roy.
Within an hour, however, the missionaries received the news that the killing was an isolated incident that resulted from a dispute between the two men. “The next day there was an all-community funeral that even the rebels attended and apologized for the wrongdoing that took place,” Danforth says.
“The capital (Bangui) is calming down,” Danforth adds. “We heard that the rebels and the local militias that had been fighting each other in a particular part of town all of a sudden laid down their arms, hugged each other, and agreed not to fight anymore because the former rebel president had stepped down.”
Foreign troops belonging to the African Unity States as well as French soldiers are helping to keep the peace and plan to eventually disarm the rebels. “So we are praising God for answered prayer, for keeping us safe here at Gamboula, and for the assistance other countries have finally given to get CAR back on tract to becoming a country again,” Danforth says.
The agriculture project Centre d’Expérimentation et de Formation Agricole (CEFA) conducts agricultural research and offers training in sustainable farming practices and animal husbandry to farmers who are food insecure. The research includes determining the suitability of staple crops such as vegetables, beans, and fruits for the area.