The Central African Republic (CAR) has had a long and turbulent history of violent conflict and political instability. With more than three decades of recurrent violent conflict and socio-political crisis, all young people in CAR have spent most of their lives in the shadow of violence.
Many young people have direct experience of death, injury, displacement, hardship or involvement in armed groups, resulting in loss of family members, property and dignity. All have had their lives in some way shaped by violence. This has left deep scars. While the physical consequences of conflict are easy to see, the effect on mental health is less obvious but no less damaging.
In Kaga Bandoro and Sibut, young men and women lived through the arrival of the Séléka in 2012, the mobilisation of the anti-balaka militias in 2013/14 and the violence that ensued. As a result of direct targeting by the anti-balaka, many Muslim civilians sought refuge in Kaga Bandoro where most of them have stayed until today. Individual and collective trauma currently limits the ability and openness of young people in Kaga Bandoro and Sibut to reach out to their peers across the conflict divide.
The ‘Disarmament of the Heart’ project, implemented by the DanChurchAid-led consortium of which Conciliation Resources is a part, seeks to address this.
With a legacy of recurrent conflict in the country, the project aims to increase young people’s mental readiness and confidence to engage in reconciliation. It provides young people with mental health and psychosocial support, while also strengthening their role in local peacebuilding. From February 2022 to August 2023, we will support at least 800 young people from the informal economy together with our partners DanChurchAid, Fondation Vegas in Sibut, and VERCA in Kaga Bandoro.
Supporting young people
The project combines mental health and psychosocial support with peacebuilding expertise. It explores local conceptions of mental health and identifies existing community support mechanisms for individual and collective wellbeing. Working with mental health specialists, we deliver psychosocial counselling to young people while also supporting young people in forming a compassionate network.
The project aims to strengthen young people’s capacities, confidence and commitment to peace and support them in developing their own peace initiatives. It also facilitates engagement between young people, local authorities and the wider community to create greater awareness of young people’s contribution to peace.
By building youth resilience and commitment to peace in both locations, this project will lay the groundwork for future reconciliation between communities in Kaga Bandoro and Sibut.
The project is funded by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund’s Gender and Youth Peace Initiative and implemented in partnership with DanChurchAid, Fondation Vegas Jeunes pour le Développement and Vision Enfants République Centrafricaine.