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Published on 14 May, 2013

Rebels demand payment in Central African Republic

Central African Republic (HCJB/MNN) — It's time to pay the piper.

According to a report from the Associated Press, the Seleka rebels who overthrew Central African Republic's president are now demanding that they be paid before they disarm. The rebels are warning the newly installed government that if they don't get paid, there could be violent consequences.

However, that isn't stopping people from putting their lives back together after the coup. Longtime ministry partner of HCJB Global, Integrated Community Development International (ICDI), has been working to resume broadcasts on its shortwave station called "Radio ICDI" since the lootings.

Radio ICDI finally broke its lengthy silence on May 4 with an hour broadcast. Since then, airtime is steadily increasing. Since March 24, there have been several weeks of silence on the ministries' frequencies. Looters took off with $300,000 worth of equipment and vehicles from the nonprofit, nongovernmental agency. The civil conflict also left CAR, an already-struggling country, reeling from instability.

Last week, ICDI director and founder, Jim Hocking (based in Warsaw, Ind.), arrived in CAR with the initial goal of getting the office up and running again.

His second task was restoring the agency's radio station, Radio ICDI, in Boali. "Is it completely safe and has peace completely returned?" wrote Hocking on a Facebook post that anticipated the most likely question from his readers. "I would have to say no, but [my staff's] argument with me is that we really need to get the gospel [programs] back on the air."

The agency operates two low-power shortwave transmitters in Boali, about an hour from the capital. Additionally, ICDI national staff drill wells for fresh drinking water and hold agricultural training to help their fellow Central Africans support themselves. It was imperative to restore operations to "normal"as quickly as possible.

Hocking brought with him replacement equipment supplied by the HCJB Global Technology Center in Elkhart, Ind., including $10,000 worth of laptop computers, iPads, electrical transformers, a printer and cartridges, a studio console, and microphones–merely a start to the long list of components that needed to be replaced.

"Now to gear back up with the radio team," anticipated Hocking, adding the word "awesome" to describe the staff at the shortwave facility. He specified that Boniface Lacpezion and Roger Kossi had skillfully assembled the equipment he'd brought from the U.S.

First obstacle: no modem to connect the station to the Internet. CAR staff didn't realize that it had been stolen. "We actually didn't know our staff had removed it from the radio station, but apparently they had taken it to the main office in Bangui for safekeeping, and it was lost [to looters]," explained Hocking's son, Jay, who serves as ICDI's communications director. "So we have no Internet at the station, and getting another modem set up out there is a little tricky. We're working on it. But until then, we're a little limited in what we can transmit. Still, we're on the air again!"

ICDI staff are not only cleaning up the mess left behind by the rebels, but they're trying to cope with personal loss, as well. Four staff members' homes were looted, and two staff members' sons were killed by Séléka troops.

One of those fathers was Albert Yahimi. His thanks in the Sango language to those who had prayed for him was recorded by Hocking, then posted to Facebook.

In the message Yahimi says, "I want to give much thanks to everyone who's agreed to give me a hand in the way of prayers as I went through each of the three trials in the last three years." Less than three years ago, Yahimi's wife died, after which he remarried. Eighteen months later, that wife died, too. Then a few weeks ago, his son died after being shot by Séléka fighters.

Hocking's visit marks the first Western assistance to ICDI since HCJB Global machinist Stephen Peacock of Indiana left the CAR on Thursday, March 21, shortly before the weekend coup. At Hocking's Mercy Care Center in Bangui, he finished a two-week visit by working on a community development project, installing two prototype water well pumps. The following Monday, the agency's main compound in downtown Bangui was looted.

Please continue to pray for the ICDI staff. The Gospel is light they're bringing into a dark situation. As much as some areas seem to have calmed, the rebel threat in light of demanding a salary could throw things into turmoil once more. Ask God to intervene.

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About Central African Republic

  • Primary Language: French
  • Primary Religion: Christianity
  • Evangelical: 32.3%
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