What Conciliation Resource is doing here is very important… It is in this way that we are formed, through debating these issues… We are in the process of building a better future for our children.
The words of the Madame Andara, Mayor of Bangui’s Fourth Arrondissement capture the energy and hope of the civil society representatives who participated in activities run by Conciliation Resources in Bangui, February 2015. However, throughout the course of the two-day workshop and subsequent seminar, feelings also encompassed the desperation and anger at the conflict and political situation.
The activities focused on supporting conflict-affected communities in the Central African Republic (CAR) to advocate for peaceful change, and contribute to policy and dialogue processes. As a result of these sessions, participants say they feel more empowered to engage in policy debates and contribute to building peace in their country.
Bringing together diverse groups from around CAR
As rarely happens, the workshop trained participants from all over the country and various neighbourhoods of Bangui, including Kilomètre Cinq, Carnot, N’Délé, Bria, Zemio, Mboki, Bambouti and Obo – on advocacy strategies and methods.
The subsequent seminar brought together people from different backgrounds, including several mayors, traditional leaders, members of local organisations, human rights activists and representatives of institutions communities usually do not engage with, such as the European Union (EU), United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), and the Central African Armed Forces.
Participants also included members of Peace Committees, which Conciliation Resources’ EU Instrument for Stability (IfS) funded project on interfaith dialogue has helped communities to create. These Peace Committees work in their communities to reduce tensions and monitor conflict issues.
Several participants also came from areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army conflict – where Conciliation Resources has been supporting communities since 2010 to protect themselves and encourage return and reintegration of combatants.
For the youth leaders it was the first training of this kind they had ever attended. Their enthusiasm was evident in one young man’s assertion at the end of the workshop that he had found a ‘peacebuilding family’ in the training. Another youth participant stated:
I thought that advocacy was just something for jurists and lawyers… now I understand that it something that I can be part of and that communities can do.
Powerful messages on elections, justice and security
Participants from these diverse regions and backgrounds formulated a series of recommendations for policymakers, focused on the issues of elections, justice and security. The community representatives articulated the need for security actors such as MINUSCA to make their mandate clear to communities in order to build trust.
The need to improve justice was also evident – participants advocated for prisons to be built in areas were there are currently none (such as the entire territory of Haut-Mbomou). They also called for clarity on elections, asking what preparations are already underway and what the timeline is for preparing for them.
It is thanks to Conciliation Resources that we have the opportunity to share our perspectives with policymakers such as the European Union, and also to share among ourselves, because between these areas in CAR – Carnot, Mboki, Bambouti, Zemio – we also have a lot to teach one another.
Kette Bénick, Deputy of Djemah
The seminar with policymakers enabled community representatives to engage directly with the EU and MINUSCA, and understand their mandates and priorities in CAR. The recommendations presented to the policymakers, chime with the initial conclusions of the consultations of the Bangui Forum – a national dialogue process contributing to the country's political future. This demonstrates that many communities across CAR have similar aspirations and a similar vision for how peace should be built in their country.