Ngala is a twenty-year-old student from Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic. He is chairman of the 4th arrondissement’s (neighbourhood) local peace committee, which is helping to reduce tensions within the community.
One focus of their work is bringing Muslims and Christians together. To achieve this they hold public awareness-raising events that help to reduce fear and rebuild trust so that they can accept each other despite their differences.
Their peacebuilding work mainly focuses on the local youth situated around Camp Beal. Initially, they consulted them to see which ones wanted to return to school or university; those that agreed were subsequently helped to re-enroll. This involved face-to-face meetings and radio broadcasts.
We organise weekly radio broadcasts to reach out to the young people who had joined rebel groups but now want to go back to school and restart their lives. We tell them we can still have hope if we are able to unite.
The peace committee chooses to work with youth because it believes they are more receptive to messages of peace. Results show that once they join a school or university, their mindset changes. As a result of the committee’s awareness-raising work, anti-Balaka members have also approached the committee to discuss their problems, and the peace committee tries to support them too.
Other activities include discussions to promote the need for peace and consultations on how to unite communities. This involves reaching out to religious leaders and neighbourhood leaders. Conciliation Resources has assisted the peace committee by providing training for these activities as well as financial support.
Your support gives us courage and hope that we can make it. We feel that, with Conciliation Resources by our side, we can get very far with the activities we carry out.
On how life has changed for him personally since the crisis, Ngala pauses and then says,
Before the war, we were different. During the war, we are different. And after the war, we will be different. We are in a situation of permanent change. Since the war, the main change I have experienced is in my mindset. Now I can only work for peace. I can only talk and take part in discussions in order to get back to a situation in which young people can forgive each other and live together.