22 people were trained in peace mediation and facilitation in November in the Central African Republic (CAR). The attendants came from all districts of Bangui, particularly from Pk5, the Muslim neighbourhood run by auto defence groups, where fresh fighting broke out less than a month ago.
The training was organised in Bangui by Finn Church Aid mixed religious leaders, community leaders, women, men and youth leaders – both Muslims and Christians.
“This quite unusual mix of attendants did not constitute problems. On the contrary, it was an opportunity to peacefully address issues that their communities face. The atmosphere during the training was peaceful, although animated”, says Marine Gourves, peace officer for FCA.
Because the Muslim inhabitants of PK5 do not feel safe in moving around the city in fear of becoming targets for aggression, Finn Church Aid dispatched a mini bus for transporting the participants to a safe area where the training took place.
The authorities and civil society leaders discussed problems within the communities such as issues with the auto defence groups, between vendors at the market, domestic issues between men and women as well as conflict over property.
The first objective of the training was to provide attendants with the knowledge and practice to proceed to basic mediation and facilitate dialog at the community level. Another objective was to strengthen their ability to analyse a conflict and to increase an understanding that behind the public positions taken by each party lie common interests and needs.
Ali Ousmane, Coordinator for the Muslim associations in CAR, confirms that the need for such training is tremendous. He insisted on coming even though he had caught a cold.
“I learnt to be impartial and neutral in the mediation process, and not to influence the outcome. We are facing a far reaching crisis in CAR, a crisis of mentality where the use of violence became a rule. Mediation and facilitation can change mentalities. I think we should have a national mediation institution to help us with that”, Ousmane said.
Finn Church Aid is preparing 15 similar trainings in Bangui and in the prefectures of Ombella Mpoko, Sangha Mbaere and Mambere Kadei with additional participants from the 80 schools FCA is currently supporting.