According to World Human Index 2021/2022, the Central African Republic (CAR) has become the fourth poorest country in the world - after Niger, Chad and South Sudan - with decades of cycles of violence.
The three-day event was opened by Ouham Prefect Barthelemy Wilickond, who spoke of the need to work towards sustainable peace, owned by the communities themselves. Representatives from the country’s central government were present each day to report on discussions and listen to local concerns.
Representatives from local communities spoke passionately about issues concerning their towns and villages; from the lack of education and opportunities for young people, to crime and policing, and infrastructure.
Suzanne Yaduporo, the representative from Korompokoh, women’s association leader and mother of 12 said:
"Decentralised Dialogue has been very important to me personally because it has helped me to clear my mind of certain things, to give education to my children and education to peace."
It is fitting that talks on sustainable peace took place in the Bossangoa neighbourhood of Borro, an area widely considered the most dangerous in the region.
There is a need to take a long-term approach to conflict transformation which empowers communities and their leaders to rebuild relationships across conflict divides. The Decentralised Dialogue process has been developed by Conciliation Resources and national civil society partners. Communities and their leaders engage in a series of inter-community dialogues to identify conflicts that can be managed at community level, and those that require advocacy to engage with the provincial and national governments. The process employs a ‘middle out’ approach, where individuals or organisations are able to both ‘listen down’ to local concerns, views and decisions, and effectively ‘speak up’ to national authorities, decision-makers and donors.
Gervais Lakosso is the Coordinator of Groupe de Travail de la Société Civile, a civil society organisation in the capital city Bangui. He commented:
"The approach is very different because we have worked with the community itself to bring up their points, their problems. Here, the people express their problems before coming up with the recommendations. I think this is very important."
Prior to the three-day workshop, community focus groups identified four main conflict issues affecting Bossangoa and the surrounding area. Of particular concern was the fear of insecurity and need for peace work; opportunities for young people and lack of entrepreneurship; land and property conflict in line with reconciliation; and a lack of practical means to make the disarmament, demobilisation, reinsertion and repatriation process more accessible. This last process involves disarming and reintegrating ex-combatants into society.
These issues formed the basis of discussions and recommendations made by the community representatives. Those attending were split into four groups tasked with outlining how communities themselves could come together to resolve these issues. Each group also made recommendations on what the government needs to do to support their initiatives. Finally they presented their findings to each other and the political representatives attending. These recommendations are being incorporated into a formal report which will be shared with the central government.
Caesar Poblicks, Dialogue Adviser and Programme Manager for Conciliation Resources in the Africa Department said:
"Dialogue is a tool that provides the mindset for listening and communicating across conflict divides, recognising that relationships have been broken due to violence. It’s not just an event for talking. It means we are not finger pointing and apportioning blame. It’s a means of focusing discussions in productive ways to ensure we build on the progress and ideas of others."
The Decentralised Dialogue model is designed to adapt to community needs. The town of Batangafo, 190kms north-east of Bossangoa has requested that the process be extended to their community. This is evidence of the desire to expand the model to more communities, giving voice to local issues and building sustainable peace.
The CAR government has also requested support from Conciliation Resources and local civil society partners to provide technical support for monitoring, evaluation, sensitisation and public awareness of the Decentralised Dialogue approach.
The Decentralised Dialogue project has been funded by ifa – Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (zivik Funding Programme) through funds provided by the German Federal Foreign Office.
Photo: Participants during the Decentralised Dialogue workshop in Bossangoa, Central African Republic, 5-7 September 2022. © Nick Bennett/Conciliation Resources
In East and Central Africa, we focus on peacebuilding in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the intercommunal conflict in the Central African Republic, and the political crisis in South Sudan.