The Central African Republic is on the brink of disaster. The conflict has a dense history, for violence initially erupted in the Central African Republic in December 2012 when a predominantly Muslim rebel militia, the Seleka, stormed across the country and captured the capital city, Bangui. The Seleka took over the capital and proceeded to organize killing and looting against the country’s non-Muslim population. A group called the Anti-Balaka rose up in opposition to Seleka, and the violence grew more intense. Gold, uranium, and diamonds are also being used to fiance the conflict.

The conflict has dire humanitarian consequences, for both the Anti-Balaka and the Seleka fail to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. There are currently more than 4.6 million people in need humanitarian aid, 440,000 people are displaced, and nearly half a million have fled to neighboring countries. The situation remains highly volatile and is in danger of exploding into further mass atrocities, even genocide, with the approach of elections. A U.N. commission of inquiry recently described the situation in Central African Republic as ethnic cleansing due to the violence perpetrated against the Muslim population. In addition, Human Rights Watch called on the international community to focus on the plight of northern Muslims in December 2014. Sectarian violence has been turned into ethno-religious conflict.

The Central African Republic has been relatively calm over the past year. During the summer of 2015, the country will hold democratic elections to begin to rebuild the government of the country. This is an opportunity for peacebuilders to make a lasting impact on CAR society. An interim president was initiated in January 2014, Catherine Samba-Panza, however the security situation remains unstable. In February 2015, peacekeepers killed at least seven rebels in clashes north-east of the capital, Bangui.

According the United Nations Development Program, parliamentary and presidential elections are scheduled for July and August. Sixty percent of the required funding has been made available, and voter registration is set to begin shortly. The desire for a stable future, rather than prolonged transition, has fomented domestic support for the elections. This will one of the more involved peace operations, for the United Nations Development Program is not only assisting with elections, but is also rebuilding the national army and police force. The stability of the Central African Republic is truly vital for the security of its citizens, and for the region as a whole.

A successful election in the Central African Republic requires several ingredients. All the groups in the conflict must be present, otherwise the environment will remain volatile. Until this becomes true, groups and individuals are at risk, as evidenced by recent kidnappings of government officials and aid workers. The Forum for National Reconciliation aims to bring together civil servants, government workers, and local populations in order to secure a peaceful election in the area. Through persistence, patience, and partnership, the elections in Central African Republic may be the next example of a positive peace operation!

– Neti Gupta

Sources: Africa Research Institute, The Guardian, Insight on Conflict
Photo: Flickr

Central African Republic
Despite turmoil between rebels and Ugandan troops in the Central African Republic, recent months have shown progress in the country’s state of affairs. While the government has come up with strategies to develop the country internally, international aid groups have increased efforts in an attempt to give the country the boost it needs to overcome recent rough patches.

The interim president Catherine Samba-Panza began the month of June by announcing a four-part plan to restore social order and instill peace. Overall, Samba-Panza is hopeful about the power of free dialogue and believes it is a necessary step in the development of the country.

Samba-Panza believes the highest priority is to ensure quick and honest information about matters of security, criminal prosecution, peace and reconciliation between the government and citizens. The interim president has made it clear that criminals will not be exempt from punishment.

The government will also make it a top priority to increase dialogue with young men who are statistically at the greatest risk of being recruited by rebel militias.

Third, the government will reach out to individuals who have been displaced throughout the country and those who have sought refuge in other countries and encourage them to return.

Finally, the government will muster ways of increasing hospitable relations between Christians and Muslims within the country. The religious friction has been a source of major tension.

In addition to internal government development, various groups have bolstered support in recent months. The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection Department and UNICEF have installed one new water well in Bangui while also repairing older wells around the city. The water is estimated to have provided water to some 800,000 people in the months of May and June. Around 4.8 million liters of water will be produced every single day. In addition to reparation and installation of wells, ECHO and UNICEF have aided water delivery by delivering chemicals and fuels to strengthen water systems.

Lack of water supply is one of the largest issues fueling the conflict in the Central African Republic. When the conflict began two years ago, only 67 percent of people had access to clean water. As a result, cholera and diarrhea were highly prevalent throughout the country. The latter was the cause of 10 percent of deaths in children under five before the crisis began. Access to water is a vital step in increasing the stability of this unstable country.

USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) has also joined in the recent support efforts. At the end of June a cargo plane carrying 186 metric tons of supplies also touched down in the capital city of Bangui. The shipment included thousands of buckets, wool blankets, kitchen sets and wool sheeting. The second airlift will arrive sometime in the middle of July and will be the last of this installment. It is estimated that these supplies will benefit over 60,000 individuals in the deadliest area of the country.

– Andrew Rywak

Sources: UNICEF, AllAfrica 1, AllAfrica 2, AllAfrica 3

1. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia

In 2006, Sirleaf became the first elected female head in Africa. As the new Liberian president, she had inherited a war-torn country that was desperate for peace after 13 years of civil war and violence. Her administration rebuilt Liberia’s economy, strengthened its infrastructure, erased the enormous national debt and tackled problems like corruption, security, education and women’s rights.

In 2011, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in promoting democracy and gender equality. Nicknamed the “Iron Lady,” Sirleaf continues to promote increased education and opportunity for women to gain skills and become more competitive in the world. She showed the world that women could no longer be excluded from African politics.

She is currently serving her second term as president after winning re-election in 2011.

“The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

2. President Joyce Banda of Malawi

In 2012, after the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, his vice president became the first female president of Malawi and the second female head of an African state.

As the first two female presidents of African nations, Banda and Sirleaf share a common background. Both women escaped abusive marriages and overcame single motherhood and poverty to become leaders of African nations. Both women are strong supporters of women’s rights, women’s education and reproductive rights. After taking office, Banda launched the Presidential Initiative for Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood. In Liberia, Sirleaf founded the Reach Every Pregnant Woman program to ensure medical care for pregnant women.

“Most African women are taught to endure abusive marriages. They say endurance means a good wife but most women endure abusive relationship because they are not empowered economically” – Joyce Banda

3. President Catherine Samba-Panza in the Central African Republic

In January, Catherine Samba-Panza defeated seven other candidates to be elected as the Central African Republic’s (CAR) interim president. Due to months of violence and killings, the CAR has collapsed politically and economically. She has the colossal task of leading the state safely into elections next year, rebuilding the CAR’s government and economy, and repairing the hostile relationship between the Muslim Seleka fighters and the Christian anti-balaka militias.

Called “Mother Courage,” Samba-Panza continues to promote women’s rights in a country where men dominate. She cites Sirleaf as her political inspiration and vows to find a solution to her country’s problems.

“The majority of my sisters and daughters in the Central African Republic don’t know their rights so they can’t defend them. But we who know our rights can help them. We must always help them: the battle is always to promote and protect the rights of women. When they are victims of violence, notably sexual violence, in the area of my activities in civil society, it was a battle I always led.” – Catherine Samba-Panza

Sarah Yan

Sources: The Root, The Guardian, BBC