By Fr Luk Delft, director of Caritas Central African Republic
The elections in December 2015 in Central African Republic were very important for the country. The results were accepted by everyone and they created a sense of good will.
However, the new elected President Faustin Archange Touadéra faces a lot of challenges. There just isn’t the money to rebuild, the justice system doesn’t work, there are no arms for the army and the UN force isn’t experienced. Despite this initial good will there is a prevalent very tense feeling.
The Seleka militia overthrew the government in 2013. Although it lost power in the early 2014, it still holds a large part of the country in the east. In the west you have the anti-Balaka. Everyone is armed, so disarmament needs to be the first step towards peace and stability. Not only disarmament of the militias, we also need demobilisation and re-entry programmes for ex militia members.
Meanwhile Touadéra promised, when elected, he would transform the country. There will be job opportunities for young people and wealth creation that is redistributed equally.
In the midst of this complex situation is Caritas. We have seven camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) on seven different sites. We distributed cooking and hygiene items to vulnerable people who fled their homes because of the violence.
Two weeks ago, our site at Kaga-Bandoro was attacked by the Seleka rebels. The houses of Caritas staff were set on fire, they lost everything. More than 20000 people have been looking for protection near the MINUSCA camp (UN). Becase of these recent incidents, the situation is still uncertain in Kaga-Bandoro.
Caritas is one of the largest networks here. Diocesan Caritas organisations are part of communities. They aren’t organisations which just come to the country for humanitarian crises, they’re always there and they remain when other NGOs have left. Caritas works in places which are often inaccessible, both logistically and security-wise. We have a very strong presence on the ground.
Eighty percent of the population depends on humanitarian aid. It’s a disaster for them really. The key thing that the country needs the most is security.
Caritas is an intermediary between different armed groups and between Muslims and Christians in the Central African Republic. The president of Caritas CAR, Archbishop (soon to be Cardinal) Dieudonné Nzapalainga is part of an Interfaith Peace Platform. Along with Imam Omar Kobine Layama they have travelled to villages to promote dialogue. Schools have been closed because of the conflicts. When there is no school, young people lose hope and in turn take up arms. Caritas has been working with families to fund their children’s education.
The long-term challenge remains on how to develop long-term peace and security so future generations may have a chance for a brighter future.