As pope Francois is visiting the Central African Republic this sunday, we post once again an open forum on the situation in the country co-hosted by Apprentis d’Auteuil, CCFD, ACAT and Secours Catholique.
Between 4th and 11th May, at the Bangui Forum, nearly six hundred people from all over the Central African regions met to discuss the situation and the future of the country. Several strong resolutions emerged from the discussions. Among them, the will for "political renewal" through the organisation of free elections and the removal of the transitional government. Also driven by the international community, these elections must take place before 31st December 2015, the expiry date of the mandate for the transitional government.
However, the recent resumption of violence and looting threatens this prospect. Just as the situation was slowly reverting to calm this past year, the territory was again engulfed in flames in late September 2015. The acts of violence perpetrated once more in the name of community claims have fuelled the discourse of political opponents of the transitional government, calling for the resignation of President Catherine Samba-Panza and the departure of UN and French forces deployed there. This renewed violence is exacerbating an already worrying humanitarian situation in most of the territory: in July 2015 the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs recorded over 460,000 displaced people in the country and more than 400,000 refugees in neighbouring states. The violence of recent days has led to the displacement of almost 30,000 people in two days in Bangui. Under these conditions the pre-electoral census underway is likely to be very incomplete and therefore not all citizens will be called to vote.
However, moving the elections is not without danger. Central Africans want an end to the transition and the International Community wants to stick to the timetable set for the end of the transition. Deferred or not, and while not being a magic bullet solution, the elections are still a necessary step to exit the crisis since they should enable the foundations of a democratic, stable Republican State to be put down. This very ambitious objective will only be possible with massive international mobilisation upstream and also downstream of the elections to support the population in its efforts for peace and social cohesion. Despite the financial, human and technical efforts that have been made, financial support from the international community is currently largely insufficient to rebuild the country. The donor conference in the CAR, which took place in late May 2015 in Brussels, received only 280 million euros worth of commitments, while the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates humanitarian needs alone at 565 million euros.
In order to help the CAR be part of a lasting peace, the International Community must therefore continue its commitment and stay focused by providing commensurate aid suited to the complexity of this crisis. Beyond the emergency actions, we must not underestimate the importance of making the territory secure by supporting the development of a Republican army and national police force. Similarly, restoring State services is essential in priority sectors such as law, education and health.
Many of these services have been completely disrupted during the crisis; their recovery is urgent to make up for the impact of all those wasted years on the young, and kick start the economy and the country’s political life. Regarding local civil society, it needs to continue its activities for revitalising growth and strengthening social cohesion. Local initiatives are indeed growing : and in some Bangui neighbourhoods, young leaders are reviving socio-economic and cultural activities with various local communities in order to recreate cohesion and social mix.
French Civil Society Organisations must also stay focused on communities and Central African communities. It is this Central African people working for their future that Pope Francis will meet and support on 29th November next, in Bangui. His personal commitment to the poorest and those who suffer invites us all (the International Community, States, international organisations, humanitarian and development organisations) to stay focused for this people and to continue to support them in rebuilding the Central African Republic.