[ARCHIVE 2011] INTERVIEW WITH FATHER CYPRIAN

Father Cyprien Ahouré of the Catholic mission:

“Reconciliation is possible in Duékoué

Father Cyprien Ahouré, head of the Catholic mission of Duékoué, in an interview, expresses his optimism about reconciliation in this locality. A town that is experiencing an unprecedented social fracture.

Tell us, who is Father Cyprien?

I am a Salesian of Don Bosco. We are a religious congregation represented throughout the world. We have been present in Duékoué for over thirty years. I have been here for seven or eight months. Things happen so quickly: I worked for four years in Cameroon. Then, for another four years in Burkina-Faso. Côte d’Ivoire is my first posting. I arrived there at a time when it was in crisis. I hope that the conflict has ended with the effective assumption of power by Mr Ouattara.

You are known as a religious guide, but you are involved in humanitarian work. How do you explain this change?

It must be said that in our formation we are more or less prepared for all this. The Salesians of Don Bosco have a worldwide reputation for hospitality, accompaniment and so on. In Sudan, we have proven ourselves. And in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo, NDLR). Whenever there are crises, people find refuge in the Catholic missions. This is the first time I have been involved in humanitarian work. I am learning alongside other humanitarians.

In what state did you receive these people, most of whom have been here since December?

They are desperate people who came from different localities following the post-election crisis. Most of them are Guérés. But the whole population of Duékoué has suffered from this crisis. They want peace, stability,… The conflict has deteriorated social relations (inter-community and inter-ethnic, NDLR). The displaced people in this Catholic mission want to live with their brothers who have stayed outside. They are waiting for them with open arms. We have done enough to get people to talk to each other to trust each other; so that they understand that it is possible for each to live with the other, even if at some point one or other of them has felt bullied.

Several awareness-raising campaigns have been carried out among these displaced people to reassure them to return home. What is holding them back?

They mention the problem of insecurity. But in reality, they fear hunger. Since they have not been to their fields because of the crisis, they have certainly not sown. Nor will they reap. He who does not sow does not reap! With the assistance given to them at the Catholic mission, it is difficult for them to leave. We tell them that they will be helped and we will do it. Also, some of them have no homes. Villages have been decimated; neighbourhoods have been destroyed. All this has to be rebuilt. Politicians must also think about helping their relatives. The FRCI (Republican Forces of Côte d’Ivoire, editor’s note) with the impartial forces (the French Licorne forces and those of UNOCI, editor’s note) are in the process of securing the region. We are confident that in a few days everything will be back to normal.

In view of what is being done, do the displaced intend to return to their homes?

Some have gone back to their homes. We have information that villages are beginning to be populated. When humanitarian action is done on the spot, people move. It is true that not many people have left, but we hope that many will follow their example. We just need to reassure them.

How many people are still here at the Catholic mission?

We counted 27,703 people. Today there are about 15,000. We hope that the number will decrease, because of the work done with the people to encourage them to return home. Actions are underway so that those who have lost everything can regain a taste for life and go back to their villages.

There is hope when we listen to you.

I think reconciliation is possible; there is hope. Despite all that has happened, Ivorians remain a peaceful people. Everyone aspires to peace. The government’s mission is to reconcile all the sons and daughters of this country. Stop the exactions, the reprisals; avoid the witch-hunt. The victor must reach out to the vanquished. We must allow this population to live together again: it is possible! I myself am of mixed race. My father and mother are not from the same region: an advantage for us. We must work for a Côte d’Ivoire that is open to the world. We also believe that it is possible to find solutions to the problems of its people. The issue of rural land, the reintegration of young people: solving these problems will contribute to reconciliation and social cohesion. We also say to the humanitarians to help the country regain its former glory, that is to say, the place where the people of the world can meet to smoke the pipe of peace, for a harmonious living together. This peace is possible; God will help us.

Interviewed in Duékoué by Ousseyni Kindo

Crédits photos : Basile Zoma

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