Central African Republic

For several decades now, the Central African Republic (CAR) has experienced persistent political-military crises. Years of poor governance and civil conflict mean that the country’s national administration and basic services are very limited outside the country’s capital, Bangui. CAR is now faced with the huge challenge of having to rebuild its collapsed infrastructure, in addition to restoring its political and authority system, without having the necessary capacity to do so.

HD has been present in CAR since 2007 where it initially contributed to an All-Inclusive Political Dialogue (AIPD). Following a formal request from the President of the Republic in March 2014, HD supported the transitional authorities to design and implement a durable political dialogue and national reconciliation process.

This work culminated in the organisation of popular nation-wide consultations as a prelude to the Bangui National Forum. The Bangui Forum took place from 4-11 May 2015 and resulted in the historic signing of the Republican Pact for Peace, National Reconciliation and Reconstruction, and of a landmark agreement on disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and repatriation (DDRR) between the Government and nine of the country’s armed opposition groups who participated in the Forum. A peaceful referendum on a new Constitution, as well as legislative and presidential elections followed and marked the end of the transitional period.

Background

General Francois Bozizé seized power in 2003 and was subsequently elected as President in 2005. In 2007, he initiated an All-Inclusive Political Dialogue (AIPD) process to reconcile the many political and armed entities in the country, and signed peace pacts with two of the rebel groups. The same year, he requested HD’s help in organising the AIPD process.

The AIPD process took place throughout 2008 and brought together nearly 200 participants. It produced a series of recommendations to pave the way for stabilization, dialogue and reconciliation in the country. Unfortunately, the Government’s failure to implement these recommendations caused the country to plunge into a new cycle of conflict.

In March 2013, President Bozizé was overthrown by the Séléka rebel group, disrupting an already fragile political equilibrium in CAR. This, in turn, led to an outbreak of sectarian violence between the pro-Muslim Séléka Coalition and pro-Christian anti-Balaka militias. The new Séléka government, led by Michel Djotodia, was unable to calm the spiraling violence across the country. Nine months after seizing power, the government was forced to resign by regional leaders.

In January 2014, the Central African Parliament elected Catherine Samba-Panza, the Mayor of Bangui, as the new President to lead a transitional government. The priority of the transitional government was to end the violence and, with support from international peacekeeping forces, to promote national reconciliation and organise credible presidential elections.

An Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities was signed in Brazzaville in July 2014 as the first of a three-step plan for peace in CAR adopted by the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). Unfortunately, this initial and important stage of the Brazzaville process was not fully respected. Peace talks continued, coupled with the deployment of United Nations and French peacekeepers in a bid to stabilize the country.

Source: Laudes Martial Mbon / IRIN

General Mohamed Mousa Dhaffane (left), representative of the ex-Seleka and Patrice Edouard Ngaissona, representative of the anti-Balaka, signing the CAR cessation of hostilities agreement on 23 July 2014 in Brazzaville. Source: Laudes Martial Mbon / IRIN

 

The security situation in CAR eventually stabilized towards the end of 2014, enabling the organisation of popular consultations throughout the country during the first quarter of 2015 (as part of the second phase of the Brazzaville process). These consultations aimed at collecting Central African people’s views and grievances on the conflict, and to prepare for the third phase of the Brazzaville process: the Bangui National Forum. The Forum took place in May 2015 and gathered 700 Central Africans from all regions and backgrounds to find lasting solutions to years of recurrent political instability in the country. It led to the signature of the Republican Pact and of a national DDRR agreement. The Republican Pact focuses on issues such as the restoration of state authority across the national territory, reform of the nationality code, reform of the security sector, and enhanced transparency in the management of state affairs.

The fragile political, security and humanitarian situation in CAR was again disrupted by an outbreak of violence in Bangui, in September 2015. The transitional government described the violence, which left 61 dead, as an attempted coup. It delayed the holding of a referendum on the new Constitution and general elections.

The country’s electoral commission revised the elections calendar following the violence; this paved the way to the holding of the constitutional referendum on 13 December 2015.  The Constitution was approved by 93% of voters.

The referendum was closely followed by Presidential and legislative elections in December. 30 candidates stood for the first round of the Presidential elections and 1,192 for the legislative elections which took place on 30 December 2015.

Whereas, the legislative elections were annulled by the Transitional Constitutional Court for widespread irregularities, two former Prime Ministers, Anicet Georges Dologuélé and Faustin Archange Touadéra, qualified for the second round of the Presidential elections. Math professor, Faustin Touadéra, eventually won the elections and was sworn-in on 30 March 2016. 128 out of the 140 Parliamentarians elected during the legislative elections held their first parliamentary session on 3 May 2016, and elected, on this occasion, an eleven-member bureau with Karim Meckassoua, a Muslim and former presidential candidate, as President. Twelve remaining MPs will be voted in on 13 May 2016.


Bangui Forum - closing ceremony 11 May 2015
 
The holding of elections has marked the end of the transitional phase in the CAR and the full implementation of Brazzaville roadmap for peace. However, the new Government of President Touadéra faces major challenges such as disarmament of irregular armed groups, security sector reform, restoration of state authority, improving service delivery, addressing demands for justice and reparation, rebuilding the country’s broken infrastructure, return of refugees and displaced persons, and youth unemployment.

Activities

As part of a mandate given by President Djotodia and President Samba-Panza, HD held a counseling role with the transitional authorities providing technical support and advice in three key areas: the establishment of an efficient political dialogue process, prioritization of the huge national reconstruction needs, and preparation for a durable reconciliation process.

Resolution of the major issues that affect the CAR’s future can only be attained through an effective political dialogue. HD has been working to ensure that this dialogue is established, enabling permanent contact among national stakeholders to address the country’s key challenges. HD organised a series of strategic meetings and workshops designed to facilitate this process throughout 2014. Most notably, in June 2014, HD, with the support of the European Union, brought together 30 representatives from across the CAR political spectrum. The workshop was key in identifying the main points of contention that constitute the agenda of on-going political talks.

A meeting with representatives of the transitional institutions (from the President’s Office, Government, Transitional Parliament, Constitutional Court, Electoral Authority and the High Communication Council) was also later organised to create space for dialogue as well as to develop a common view of the roadmap for transition. HD supported the work of the Bangui Forum’s Preparatory Commission, the Technical Organisational Committee, and the Presidium, to ensure an inclusive participation to the Forum, establish an agenda based on the outcomes of the popular consultations. It also contributed to the drafting of the Republican Pact and witnessed the signing of the DDR agreement between the transitional Government and nine armed groups.

As a follow-up to the Bangui Forum, HD held a series of dialogues at national and sub-national level with civil society, the media, African diplomats, armed groups, national experts and Muslim community leaders, on issues such as the reform of the national constitution later approved in a referendum, DDRR, pastoralism as a source of tension, the electoral calendar, as well as transitional justice needs and expectations. HD also provided technical support and capacity-building sessions to members of the committee set up to monitor implementation of the Bangui National Forum. It made recommendations and translated the Republican Pact into Sango, the local language, for effective dissemination.

To contribute to ensuring peaceful elections, HD organised a public dialogue in partnership with the University of Bangui to discuss the necessary conditions for credible elections in the country. It also translated the Draft Constitution into Sango. In addition, HD supported journalists in the elaboration and adoption of a code of ethics for reporting on elections, and sponsored two monitoring positions at the media observatory to ensure strict adherence to the code. HD published special editions of its semi-monthly newsletter, Patara, (‘Dialogue’ in Sango) to explain the stakes of the referendum and of the general elections to the electorate, and organised training sessions for the agents in charge of representing the presidential candidates at the various polling stations on voting day. In partnership with the National Communications Council, HD also organised the first-ever live debate between the two candidates in the presidential run-off election. The debate was aired on state TV and radio and 17 community radio stations, reaching 95% of the national territory.

The elected government of President Touadéra, which was sworn-in on 30 March 2016, has renewed HD’s mandate to continue supporting his government in addressing the many challenges it faces around political dialogue, DDRR, restoration of state authority, justice and reparation, as well as the return of refugees.

Donor Support

HD would like to express its gratitude to the European Union for its support to this initiative.

Agreements and statements

Related Publications

Audio

  • Conférence-débat à l’Université de Bangui sur le thème « Diplomatie et développement : Réflexion sur une nouvelle approche pour le relèvement de la RCA »  qui s’est tenue le 15 janvier 2016 de 10h à 12h 30. ^L’enregistrement vient du journal de 07h, 16 décembre, de Radio Centrafrique.