History of the conflict in Central African Republic
In March 2013 the Séléka rebel coalition seized power from former President Bozizé. In response, militias, the so-called anti-Balaka, and self-defence groups emerged. Clashes between the Séléka and the anti-Balaka plunged CAR into a cycle of revenge killings.
Different armed groups and warlords now control large tracts of land. The state’s fragility in the east and north-east, and the inability of CAR’s armed forces to protect the population and maintain order, have played into the hands of rebel groups. This has worsened local conflicts and left communities increasingly vulnerable and powerless.
Historically, local communities have played a limited role in preventing and resolving conflicts, and instead inter-communal tensions along religious and tribal lines have been allowed to develop. Young people, especially, feel disconnected from local and national peacebuilding processes, and personal experiences of violence and loss as well as limited access to sufficient economic, educational or social opportunities often increases the likelihood of them joining armed groups.
Numerous attempts have been made to negotiate peace in the Central African Republic. In May 2015 the Bangui Forum brought together 600 people from across the country as part of a long-term national dialogue and reconciliation process.
In February 2019, the government signed a peace accord with the leaders of 14 armed groups following talks in Sudan. Unlike preceding deals this deal appeared to be making headway, with strong support from the international community and a disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation programme underway. However, disputed elections in December 2020 sparked fresh violence, and the forming of a new coalition of armed groups, known as the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), comprising a number of signatories of the peace agreement.
Our work in Central African Republic
We’ve worked in the Central African Republic since 2010, supporting grassroots peacebuilding initiatives and connecting these to national peace processes. In 2014, we began establishing 12 Local Peace Cells across the country. These LPCs have a vital role to play in rebuilding trust between different religious and ethnic groups, and between communities, local government and security forces. They are often also an essential link between communities and armed groups – negotiating ‘safe zones’, discussing local peace agreements, or even encouraging fighters to lay down their weapons.
After talking with the CAR government about the success of these LPCs, the Ministry of Social Affairs and National Reconciliation launched a pilot scheme to establish a national structure of LPCs in 2016.
Alongside our partners, we are also working with young people, including those formerly associated with armed groups. Our support includes giving these young people the skills to identify and analyse conflicts and become peacebuilders and mediators within their communities. To increase young people’s ability to influence decisions around peace and security, we also strengthen the relationships between young people and power holders at the local, prefectural and national level.
Since 2021, we have been piloting the Decentralised Dialogue with the aim of developing sustainable, inclusive and legitimate local mechanisms to allow community views to be articulated, identifying the communication channels and messengers to ensure these views are heard at the right level, and to act as a forum for the discussion and dissemination of resulting agreements and policies.
We have begun working with DanChurch Aid to provide 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 DanChurchAid, and our local partners Fondation Vegas in Sibut, and VERCA in Kaga Bandoro.