In late 2012, long-active groups of non-conventional forces, dissatisfied with broken promises by the government to integrate them into the power structure coalesced to form the Seleka alliance. By March 2013, they had taken over the capital, Bangui, forcing the president, Francois Bozizé, to flee. Very quickly, what had primarily been a power and political conflict took on religious identity dimensions: the brutality and wanton violence quickly led to the formation of “anti-Balaka” militias. This development has had a devastating effect on social relations: a clear division has arisen between Christians and Muslims, with most towns segregated or even totally emptied of their religious minorities. A climate of intense distrust and apprehension reigns, with civilians presumed to be allied to either anti-Balaka or Seleka by those on the opposite side of the divide.
Yet, key opportunities to sow the seeds of long-term peace exist. Interreligious conflict in CAR is a recent phenomenon. The country’s motto “ZoKweZo” (All People are People) promotes unity and tolerance among its people and for many decades, despite the numerous other conflicts in the country, Christians and Muslims cohabited.
Search for Common Ground’s 24-month project aims to prevent inter-community violence and support an inclusive peacebuilding process in the Central African Republic in partnership with the Association of Women Communications Professionals (AFPC), Discover the Journey (DTJ), and a range of media, community, and civil society groups. Our project is supporting peace efforts in the conflict-prone areas of Bangui, Bossangoa, and Bangassou.
We adopted a people-to-people approach, seeking to bring together opposed groups in support of common objectives. Our initiative combines short-term local actions, with longer term capacity and institution-building, buttressed by cross-cutting media work:
We work in close partnership with AFPC to ensure active female participation and to support this important media institution;
We coach a cadre of young women and men from diverse identity groups to develop capacities to lead community peacebuilding initiatives;
We provide further support through mobile cinema aimed on changing attitudes among specific groups;
We produce radio programming for a national audience, and for displaced populations in DRC and Chad, which supports collaborative and peaceful approaches to conflict and finally;
We reinforce civil society platform with the aim of supporting the transition to peace in CAR.