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What We Do

Central African Republic Programme

The KAICIID Country Programme in the Central African Republic is designed to re-establish dialogue and understanding between Christians and Muslims through building and supporting existing dialogue platforms, which can then be integrated into the ongoing peace processes. Particular emphasis is placed on the inclusion of youth and women in these initiatives, as well as on their incorporation into national and international peacebuilding infrastructures such as the national reconciliation process. The CAR Country Programme works to catalyze and promote partnerships among religious community leaders, and between them and policy-makers. The aim of the partnerships is to support peace and reconciliation initiatives in CAR, and where applicable in neighbouring regions, to contribute towards sustainable peace.

Following the ouster of President Bozize by Seleka fighters in March 2013, the Central African Republic (CAR) has been riven by violence. The Seleka combatants overran the capital and seized power. Intense fighting erupted between the Muslim and Christina communities, who had previously lived peacefully side by side for generations. The members of the Seleka group are predominantly Muslim, while the anti-Balaka groups which organized to combat the Seleka are mainly Christian. During their almost 10 months in power, the Seleka were responsible for massacres, extra-judicial killings, torture and destruction of villages. As a response to these attacks directed towards the Christian population, the anti-Balaka organized quickly with the support of military from the erstwhile regime, and in turn lashed out against out against the Seleka; the atrocities committed by the anti-Balaka soon spread to all 16 provinces of the country. The vicious nature of the attacks on both sides, accompanied by the desecration of places of worship, led the Special Advisor to the United Nations Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, to address the Security Council in January 2014 stating: “Incitement to commit violence on the basis of religion or ethnicity and deliberate and targeted attacks against civilians based on their identity are both factors that indicate a high risk both of crimes against humanity and of genocide.” The role of religious leaders in achieving peace in CAR is crucial. As in most sub-Saharan African countries, CAR citizens identify themselves as adhering closely to their religion. In CAR, the Christian community represents 80% of the population (55% Protestant and 25% Catholic) and the Muslim community makes up 15% of the population. The main representatives are Imam Kobine Layama, president of the Islamic community; Reverend Guerekoyame Gbngou, president of the evangelic community; and Monsignor Dieudonne Nzapalainga, the Archbishop of Bangui, who have been attempting to push towards national efforts of reconciliation from within their respective communities. The three above mentioned religious leaders constitute the ‘Platform for religious leaders of Central African Republic’. The Platform is recognized by the interim government, which gives it authority to work towards reconciliation within the ‘Bangui National Forum’, made up of government, civil society, international, Seleka and anti-Balaka representatives. A key challenge is to unify communities, as is the case with the Muslim community. Opinion within the Muslim community is itself fractured. The reasons for this division lies in the fact that part of the Muslim community comes from neighboring countries, in particular from South Sudan, and some of them do not speak the local language (Sango) nor French, and lack Central African passports and identity documents. This intra-religious division, and disagreements relating to representation of these communities, affects the stability of the country, and has caused clashes within the community. It also exemplifies the complexity of the current conflict and debunks the simplistic narrative of labeling it as solely an interreligious problem. On May 10, 2015 the armed Seleka and anti-Balaka groups signed a peace accord by which they committed to disarm their militias, as well as to begin a judicial process concerning the war crimes committed during the last two years of conflict. The accord took place within the Bangui National Forum and was signed by 10 armed groups and the Minister of Defense, and contained an agreement for the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Repatriation (DDRR) of all ex-combatants. It also dealt with the disarmament of child soldiers and other issues supervised by the UN peacekeeping force MINUSCA.
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The Project “Reducing Interreligious tensions in Central African Republic” in collaboration with Search for Common Ground (SFCG) has the overall objective of contributing to the reduction of interreligious and inter-community tensions in order to facilitate peace and reconciliation in CAR. The two main objectives are (a) to reinforce the capacities of religious leaders to promote dialogue and facilitate peaceful resolution of conflict, and (b) to promote dialogue and understanding between religious communities in specific localities. The project is designed to support the work already being done by the Interfaith Platform in CAR - an initiative led by Monsignor Nzapalainga, the Archbishop of Bangui; Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, President of the Islamic Community; and Reverend Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbangou, President of CAR's Evangelical Alliance. KAICIID and Search for Common Ground provide financial and logistical support to the religious leaders of the Interreligious Platform. By supporting a permanent office, vehicles and fuel, we ensure that religious leaders working for peace and implementing activities for reconciliation are able to work more effectively under challenging circumstances. Development of training curriculum for religious leaders In collaboration with a committee composed of representatives from community leaders, SFCG collected passages from the Koran and the Bible that call for forgiveness, tolerance, mutual trust, reconciliation, peace, and non-violence. A training module was built on the foundation of these passages. A Catholic priest, three Protestant pastors and an Imam contributed to the development of this module. A first meeting was organized to discuss the topics to be addressed in the module. Once the religious leaders identified the themes, the commission members developed the chapters of the module. The module has been widely used in discussion sessions with religious denominations in the country. KAICIID and SFCG organized, in December 2015, two intra-religious workshops for Catholic/Protestant participants and Muslim participants. The religious leaders reflected on the messages of social cohesion and peace that are found in their sacred texts. The workshops tested the training modules developed by KAICIID/SFCG, but helped to build relationships between the religious leaders and to train Imams and priests who work at the grassroots in their communities. The participants were engaged, committed to change, and to dialogue and cooperation. Interreligious Workshop: KAICIID and SFCG organized a workshop for 45 Christian and Muslim religious leaders in the capital, Bangui. The workshop focused on three themes: common values, understanding the root causes of the conflict and non-violence. This retreat helped empower religious leaders to address the traumatic events that had taken place in their country. A common action plan was developed, and to date, the two groups continue to work together to develop new projects.
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The project ‘CAR Intra-Muslim Dialogue and Capacity-building Initiative’ in collaboration with the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and Finn Church Aid (FCA) aims to develop the capacity of the Muslim leadership and support reconciliation within the Muslim community in order to better engage them in the national peace support mechanisms as identified in the outcomes of the Bangui Forum and in contributing towards national dialogue and reconciliation. The first step was a series of preparatory visits to Bangui. Informed by these consultations, the “Peacemaking in the Central African Republic” technical meeting, was hosted by the Centre in Vienna on 26 August 2015. The meetings sought to ensure the successful two-day Intra-Muslim Dialogue and Capacity Building Conference, which took place at the Centre’s headquarters in 2016. This Conference convened 36 participants, representing various sectors of the CAR Muslim communities. Additionally, international observers, representing the UN among others, participated. The Conference developed an Agreement/Action Plan on Intra-Muslim peacemaking that was endorsed by consensus among the Muslim leaders at the conference. This Agreement/Action Plan will be used as a tool to further the work of the Centre in CAR. Endorsement of this document will be sought throughout the Muslim community country wide as a way to widen the commitment and support for Intra-Muslim peacemaking Intra-Muslim. KAICIID is also preparing a series of workshops in majority Muslim regions, focusing on Muslim religious and community leaders, to increase their capacity in violence prevention and de-escalation through dialogue and facilitation, as well as in efforts towards Peace and Reconciliation. Along with these workshops, violence prevention and de-escalation committees will be established and will be composed of these leaders themselves and NGOs with relevant expertise on the matter. These activities will form the basis for a larger countrywide conference convening Muslim and Christian community representatives to strengthen inter-religious relations and collaboration, expected to contribute to creating trust, overall peacemaking and the prevention of violence in CAR.