Barbara Sanga, 22 years old, is working actively with women in her community as Head of Programmes of the local peace committee in the 5th arrondissement, Bangui. She shares her journey as a youth peace leader and why women have a key role to play in peacebuilding in the Central African Republic. 

How did you get involved in the local peace committee?

I got involved by working with a local youth committee in the 5th Arrondissement, which started collaborating with Vitalite Plus a local NGO working with survivors of armed conflict. It was through Vitalite Plus that I was introduced to Conciliation Resources.

How was the security situation in Bangui before the local peace committees were established?

The situation in our arrondissement during the crisis was really terrible. I will give you a statistic. During the crisis no less than 1700 houses in our arrondissement were destroyed and no Muslims could come to the crossroads at the beginning of our arrondissement. Since 2014, we have been working with the 3rd arrondissement who are our neighbours and collaborating with them, and now I can tell you that we have 75% security.

How has Conciliation Resources support helped you as a youth peace leader?

Conciliation Resources is our first and only international partner. Thanks to Conciliation Resources, we held a carnival of peace in our arrondissement and after that we realised that little by little, circulation was increasing and so we began to have exchanges between the youth of the 5th and the 3rd arrondissement. And now again thanks to Conciliation Resources we have set up a local security council.

How is the local peace committee here helping to contribute to reducing tensions within your community?

If there’s something that’s not going right in our arrondissement, we hold a security meeting and we advocate to the local authorities and pass on information to them. And sometimes with the local authorities we advocate to the ministry of public security.

We have contributed to the return of the police station. They have worked with the young people because at the beginning many young people did not want the police circulating in the 5th arrondissement. Now they have more trust in the international forces (MINUSCA). And now tensions have reduced and we can sleep at night in the 5th arrondissement.

What is your most powerful experience of working with the local peace committee?

Because of the peace committee many things have changed in our arrondissement and also for me personally. I have realised to work for peace means I have to change my own behaviour and I have to be a model to other people.

If people see that you are being violent and aggressive then they are not going to change their behaviour. I have changed a lot. I have tried to stop everything that is violent inside me.

How has life changed for you since the crisis?

During the crisis I was so angry and frightened I could have contributed to the death of Muslims. But after doing training in social cohesion I left my hate for Muslims behind. Now when I see a Muslim I consider them my real friends. We are all created by God.

What are the roles that women can play in peacebuilding in Central African Republic?

Central African women have a great role to play in national peacebuilding. Women are really invested in peace in the Central African Republic. Sometimes we are listened to more than men. If all the women are engaged in peacebuilding then peace will come.

What would you advise the next President to achieve peace and security in Central African Republic?

My advice to the new President would be to practise good governance and not to be partisan against any group of people. To not be involved in tribalism or nepotism but to be impartial and to work for the good of our country.