Father Giovanni Ceresoli, a Xaverian missionary, told the Vatican agency Fides that the situation is returning to normal in this western African nation of 5.4 million people.
“Things are calm now,” he said. “In Freetown, the curfew has been reduced between 3 and 5 a.m.”
“The only remaining problems are in the diamond mining area, where rebels and pro-government Civil Defense Forces say they have handed over the arms, but doubts remain,” the priest explained. “It appears that they reached an agreement over the diamond mines: As long as the agreement holds, there will be peace.”
“The Church has resumed most of its activities,” he added. “The Giuseppini missionaries have reopened their professional training schools and the Missionaries of Charity nuns are on their way back. In the north, local clergy and missionaries have reopened their parishes, which the fighting forced them to close more than three years ago. Everything needs to be rebuilt; structures were totally destroyed in 10 years of war.”
According to the U.N peacekeeping force, charged with the disarmament process by the rebels of the Revolutionary Front and pro-government Civil Defense Forces, more than 42,000 fighters have handed in their arms. The process began on May 18, 2000.
“Another important test for peace will be the May elections,” Father Ceresoli said. “Our hope is that the sides will renounce the use of violence to obtain their own interests.”