This past week the Central African Republic celebrated its 51st year of independence. National Day, December 1st, is observed each year with parades, speeches, soccer matches, and other festivities, including a boat race with giant dug-out canoes in the Oubangui River in Bangui.
In Baboua, where we live, a parade was held, which included majorettes, motorcycles, school children, the Tai Kwan Do Club, and many other organizations. This year the parade was held on the newly-paved main street, which is also the major route from Cameroon to the capital of Bangui. This marks the first year we have had any paved roads in Baboua, or anywhere in the western region of CAR, outside of the main city of Bouar.
As we end 2011 and get ready to begin a new year, things are looking brighter than they have at any time during the past eight years since the 2003 coup. Peaceful elections were held in January, with the run-off elections in March, and peace agreements have been made with nearly all the former rebels in the country. A "Caravan for Peace" has been traveling through the troubled northeastern region, and opposing groups there have recently concluded a peace agreement as a result. The U.S. has sent advisors to help stop the predations of the Lord's Resistance Army, which has been causing trouble in the far eastern regions of the country.
If a country is at peace, then progress toward development can be made. In most regions of the country, farmers have returned to their fields and are enjoying good harvests. Roads are being paved, and children have returned to school. CAR still needs a lot of help, but the country can look forward to 2012 with optimism that at least the country is relatively free of violence and insecurity. If the peace holds, maybe even some measure of prosperity can come to this impoverished, but resource-rich nation. Let us pray that it may be so.
Photo: Flag-raising at the opening of the National Day Celebration in Baboua, Central African Republic. High school students stand at attention as a soldier salutes the flag.
Deborah and Joe Troester are ELCA missionaries in Baboua, the Central African Republic. Joe serves as technical advisor for PASE, which provides clean drinking water and promotes good hygiene and sanitation to villagers. Pastor Deborah teaches at the Theological School in Baboua. Their daughter, Christa, attends ninth grade at Rain Forest International School in Yaoundé, Cameroon.