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Central African Republic

Archbishop of Bangui: I would be thankful for German involvement in CAR

Central African Republic Archbishop Nzapalainga calls for help from Europe and the UN to restore peace in his country. Fears of genocide aren't exaggerated as some people feel they have nothing left to lose, he tells DW.

DW: In Germany there are currently discussions about what can be done to help the Central African Republic (CAR). Specifically transport aircraft and aerial re-fueling for a European military intervention are being talked about. What do you expect from a possible German involvement?

Monseigneur Dieudonné Nzapalainga: France is maintaining the Sangaris mission, and then there is the African intervention force, MISCA, and France should be supportedin its mission. I expect Germany to approach France, which is on the ground and knows what is needed in order to re-establish security, what is needed to give people their lives back and so that the country can be rebuilt. The Central African Republic no longer exists - it's just a shadow of a state. Germany could financially and militarily help France and help when it comes to restoring access to food.

If Germany were to send transport planes, I would be very thankful. So far it's mainly African soldiers who are on the ground. But the African armies are often not as well outfitted as the European ones. When it comes to jets and vehicles, we have seen the difference between African soldiers and the French ones taking part in the Sangaris mission. Germany should support France in its mission.

French troops in in Bangui
Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images

More European troops would help the situation in CAR, Nzapalainga said.

Are the Sangaris and MISCA missions enough to restore security?

I have great respect for the soldiers who have come to stabilize my country and who are helping to keep violence under control enough that there could be a precarious peace. But these forces are simply not enough. Our country is 623,000 square kilometers (240,000 square miles). There are Seleka rebels in swaths of the country who feel like the lords of their region. Who is taking care of the populations there? Are people being massacred or prosecuted or tortured or killed there? It's time for the international community to finally provide troops and money to support these helpless people.

On Monday (20.1.2014), EU foreign ministers will decide how many soldiers - if any at all - will be deployed to Central African Republic. The first troops would not arrive until the end of February. Is that too late?

I sincerely hope that it does not take too long! The country urgently needs help. The new interim president and his prime minister will need support. How can they show their authority when there are militias everywhere who aren't interested in what the government in far-away Bangui has to say? The Central African Republic cannot become no-man's land. The entire region could be destabilized. The Central African Republic borders six countries. We do not want the country to be a hotbed or haven for armed groups or mercenaries.

But is a maximum of 1,000 EU solider enough?

I am very much in favor of the Sangaris and MISCA missions turning into a United Nations mission as quickly as possible. There's a simple reason behind this - there would be more soldiers and more money, including for administration. We have to make sure the elections can take place under good conditions and that those who are elected receive wide-spread support. The people in villages and other regions have to talk about what has happened and how it happened. The people who committed crimes have to be punished, and the others need to be integrated. UN peacekeepers could certainly help with that process.

Dieudonné Nzapalainga Archbishop of Bangui
Photo: SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images

Nzapalainga (pictured) said religious leaders need to preach a message of peace

After the massacres, it will be difficult to re-establish trust among the country's religious communities. For months, you and other religious leaders have been speaking a message of peace - but without much success.

Unfortunately, there are people working against the message we preach. People who more than anything else want power and are willing to use young people as cannon fodder. But we have our message. If one of us religious leaders were to call on our community to get involved in the war it would be a catastrophe - it would be a genocide. But we are sticking together and spreading our message despite all the blowback. The only way we will be able to rebuild our country will be with fraternity, dialogue and cooperation.

The United Nations have warned of the possibility of genocide in Central African Republic. What is your view of this warning?

Warnings about genocide have to be taken seriously. People are at a stage where nothing can stop them anymore. They have lost everything and don't have any hope anymore. They feel like their lives do not make sense anymore. Many people are ready to do anything. That's what we should be afraid of. These kinds of feelings can become self-fulfilling and can be turned against a certain group. It could create the sense that there's a war between Christians and Muslims and it's up to us to say "No!" Otherwise, there really could be massacres between the communities.

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