Currently, one of the crisis areas on the African Continent is the civil conflict and instability in Central African Republic. The United States Institute of Peace held a briefing on June 27 titled “Creating a Stable Peace in the Central African Republic” which Africa Faith and Justice Network had the opportunity to attend. The Central African Republic has a long history of political and social violence, which was a main theme of the conversation. Moderated by Susan Stigant of the United States Institute of Peace, the panel consisted of Mike Jobbins- a representative from Search for Common Ground, Neal Kringel- a representative from the US Department of State, Dr. Reyn Archer- Chief of Staff for Representative Jeff Fortenberry, and Parfait Onanga-Anyanga- a UN Representative of the Central African Republic and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic.
Mr. Onanga-Anyanga began by describing the UN’s work as well as the work of the other NGOs as “Building dams against the flood of violence.” He also stated the importance of keeping hope alive in the young population, making opportunity for progress available to them where there might be none. After the statement of these general goals, the discussion then was about the three main pillars of how this progress could be promoted by the UN and others. One, the building of democratic institutions that are responsive to their citizens as well as strengthening what institutions already exist. Two, keep the peace and act impartially to create an environment conducive to dialogue and debate between warring factions. Finally, upon the return to relative peace, creating an environment of native people to create wealth with their own efforts.
Dr. Archer argued that simply funding a good intentioned project would not be enough to create success and later stated that we must be willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary for a better future.
Mr. Kringel noted the importance of keeping the Central African Republic government tied to outside commerce, which in turn keeps them accountable to the rest of the world.
In addition, Mr. Jobbins delivered a sobering message that often goes without being said. He said that in the face of humanitarian crisis, we often lose sight of the human faces that are at the root of our efforts and see only numbers and statistics. Jobbins went on to mention specific stories of mothers, fathers, sons and daughters in distress, stories we must not ignore. These people are the biggest allies in any fight for change, as they are the only ones who can truly create legitimacy in their government and trust in their institutions.
A final note made by almost all of the panel was the idea of slow but sure progress. To paraphrase Mr. Onanga-Anyanga, “Fixing 60 years of strife is impossible in 3 years.” It is an unfortunate truth that this progress will require the blood, sweat and tears of all who seek a better future. Little by little, city by city, collective efforts can make the Central African Republic a better place, efforts that Africa Faith and Justice Network hope to contribute to.
By Patrick Garvey