News – Voice of America interview (in French) with HD Special Adviser Patrick Kilchenmann on the follow up to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement between two rival armed groups in CAR.
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 in March 2016.
In November 2016, HD was involved in preparing a conference in Brussels where Donors pledged $2.268 billion for three years in support of the elected government’s efforts towards rebuilding the country.
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 spiralling 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.
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.
Insecurity and logistical problems caused the country’s electoral commission to revise the elections calendar several times. Eventually, the referendum on the new Constitution was held on December 13, 2015. The Constitution was approved by 93% of voters.
Presidential and legislative elections were held on December 30. Professor Faustin Archange Touadéra won the presidential elections and was sworn-in on March 30, 2016. Meanwhile, on May 3, 2016, the new parliament elected an eleven-member bureau led by Hon. Karim Meckassoua, a Muslim and former presidential candidate. According to the new Constitution, which came into effect on March 30, 2016, the Speaker of the National Assembly is the second personality in the hierarchy of the State.
The holding of general elections 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.
In response to these challenges, the elected government of President Faustin Taoudéra developed and presented a five-year recovery and reconstruction plan at a donors’ conference in Brussels in November 2016. It mobilised $2.268 billion for three years, signalling the international community’s commitment to ending the cycle of conflict in the CAR. All of the fourteen known armed groups have adhered to the DDRR process introduced by the elected government.
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 that was 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 and the DDRR Agreement 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 polling agents of the presidential candidates. 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 has renewed HD’s mandate to continue supporting his government in addressing the many challenges it faces. HD was involved in preparing the successful donors’ conference in Brussels where Donors pledged $2.268 billion for three years in support of the elected government’s efforts towards rebuilding the country. Currently, HD is supporting the efforts of the Strategic Committee on Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation (the highest decision-making body involved in DDRR and chaired by the Head of State) and the Steering Committee for the creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), to consolidate the ongoing reconciliation process in the country.
HD would like to express its gratitude to the European Union for its support to this initiative.