June 11 – VIOLENCE IN AFRICA
VIOLENCE IN AFRICA
In the early 20th century the dangers threatening our missionary Brothers in Africa were due to the climate and to disease. At the end of the century danger was often threatening in the form of violence. The Province of Senegal was spared this scourge. In contrast, the Province of Central Africa was sorely tried in four countries (the Congo, Rwanda, the Republic of Central Africa and Zaire) where members were present. Gabon, also part of the Province and usually calm, went through some riots of late May 1990, when five Brothers living in Port-Gentil had to leave their residence and their school for a week.
In the Congo, from June 1993 the capital Brazzaville was put to fire and the sword by rival ethnic groups for several months; the toll was more than 3,000 dead and thousands of displaced persons. In December 1993 the seven scholastics and 13 novices were sent home and did not return until April 1994.
The fighting resumed in June 1997, went on for five months and caused more than 10,000 casualties. As early as June, the French Brothers returned home and the novices moved to Senegal.
A third series of killings and looting took place in 1998-1999. At the end of January 1999 the whole complex of Notre-Dame d’Afrique and the religious houses round about, in which 25,000 refugees had taken shelter, was evacuated by the armed forces. The war spread over the whole country: the four Brothers living at Dolisie fled their house under tragic circumstances and made for Pointe-Noire, then reached Senegal. In the summer of 1999 the Brothers were able to regain possession only of Notre-Dame d’Afrique after the rooms had been looted.
In Rwanda the October 1990 riots did not disturb the communities in Butare but the April 1994 tragedy was appalling. It claimed the lives of the majority of the teachers and their assistants in the school for the deaf, as well as those of many deaf children and their relatives. A group of 22 people (Brothers, deaf children, female supervisors, etc.) made their way through Burundi at the last moment and reached the Republic of Central Africa where they stayed in Bangui for over a year. In May 1996 the school for the deaf resumed its activities. ‘
In the Republic of Central Africa, the capital Bangui went through four series of riots connected with army mutineering from December 1996 to March 1997. The Brothers had to gather together into one community, then to take refuge in another district of the city.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire) the Buta tragedy in 1965 (See 30 May) was followed by a few quiet years, but the country went through recurrent tragedies afterwards: riots in Kinshasa on 23 and 24 October 1991 (when the French Brothers decided to stay put out of solidarity . with the local Brothers), the civil war from 1996 to 1998 during which the Bondo mission, which had already been ravaged in 1966 and 1972, was destroyed; the civil war disrupted the normal activities and the studies of the Brothers in the capital Kinshasa.