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Rome-based Lay Catholic Association Facilitating “ceasefire, dialogue” in CAR

Participants at the Rome meeting for peace in the Central African Republic (CAR). Credit: Sant’Egidio Community

The Rome-based lay Catholic association dedicated to the provision of social services and arbitrating conflicts, Sant’Egidio Community, has facilitated an agreement to end hostilities and pave the way for dialogue in the Central African Republic (CAR).

In a joint statement issued Wednesday, September 29 following a three-day meeting with representatives of government and various opposition parties, participants in the Rome forum describe their deliberations as having been “rich and cordial.”

The participants who included “Central African men and women, representatives of political parties, civil society and religious denominations” say they traveled to Rome “at the invitation of the Community of Sant'Egidio on 27, 28 and 29 September, 2021.”

In their joint statement titled “Towards the Republican Dialogue - for peace and the future of the Central African Republic,” participants in the meeting further say they had “three days of rich and cordial discussions on the future of the Central African Republic.”

“We invite the leaders of our country and the living forces of the Nation to prepare the way for dialogue in a spirit of openness, humility and pragmatism,” they say in the three-page statement signed by representatives of CAR government, opposition leaders, members of the civil society, religious leaders, and the Secretary General of Sant’Egidio Community.

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In the statement, these representatives “solemnly appeal to all armed groups - as well as those of self-defense - to lay down their arms and reach a final ceasefire, aware of the immense suffering experienced by the Central African people.”

They acknowledge with appreciation President Faustin Archange Touadera’s declaration of the Republican Dialogue (RD) whose success, the participants say, they ardently desire.

They caution against transforming RD “into a court of law to hear cases, nor an opportunity to reward impunity, but to promote the interest of the nation over the positions taken by each person.”

They further “reaffirm the commitment to live together as Central Africans respecting the laws, institutions and customs of our Republic in order to rebuild our country in peace.”

Since gaining independence in 1960, CAR has experienced years of violent conflicts. In 2012, the largely Muslim alliance, Seleka, launched an attack against the government leading to counter-attacks by anti-Balaka coalitions of Christian fighters.

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The two rebel groups, which control vast regions of the country, faced off again in March 2013 when fighters allied to Seleka seized the country’s capital, Bangui, and staged a coup, a move that was countered by anti-Balaka militias.

The back-and-forth revenge attacks between the two religion-aligned groups backed by other militias introduced a religious angle that was previously absent in the crisis.

In the September 29 collective statement, representatives of various groups in CAR outline conditions for consolidating peace in the country.

They urge the government to “listen to the needs, desires and sufferings of the Central African people while promoting a fraternal language; banning hate speech and intolerance.”

The participants in the Rome meeting urge CAR government to “take measures to reduce political and security tensions in order to create good conditions for dialogue.”

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“Guarantee the right to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, free movement and personal safety of all Central Africans, including political leaders, civil society and religious communities, who will participate in the Republican Dialogue,” they add.

They call on citizens in CAR to “get out of ethnic and religious hatred and to avoid manipulations of all kinds, especially based on religion.”

“Work for good governance and for a rational and transparent management of public goods and natural resources of our country by adopting a policy of economic recovery,” the participants in the three-day Rome meeting further say.

They also “affirm the close link between economic development, security and stability.”

The participants express their commitment to working “for the strengthening of democracy in our country and create a healthy climate for the exercise of governance by promoting education, civic responsibility and the training of young people.”

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On its part, the leadership of Sant'Egidio expresses “satisfaction for the efforts made by all participants and for the friendly atmosphere of the discussions and reaffirms its willingness to collaborate for the future of the country.”