Promoting reconciliation is a central concern of the Bêkou Fund, a multi-donor fund created by the European Union to support the resilience of the Central African Republic.
The election of President Touadéra in February 2016, the adoption of the National Recovery and Peacebuilding Plan (RCPCA) in 2017 and the signing of a peace agreement in February 2019, have paved the way for a sustainable exit from the crisis. However, instability persists and outbreaks of violence regularly occur, fuelled by the feeling of marginalisation of certain provinces or groups.
With this in mind, the contributors to the Bêkou Fund (the European Union as well as Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland) launched a programme targeting refugees in 2014 and a programme to promote social cohesion, dialogue and reconciliation in 2015. A second phase of this programme was adopted in April 2020.
As in any conflict-affected country, it is imperative to restore social cohesion. Thus, in line with the first pillar of the RCPCA, the objective of the Bêkou Fund is to support the dynamics of peace and reconciliation.
The second phase of the Reconciliation programme therefore aims to ensure that "increased dialogue and social cohesion accompany the peace and reconciliation process in CAR".
Priorities for action
Since 2014, nearly 23 million euros have been allocated by the Bêkou Fund to this social cohesion/reconciliation theme through the refugee programme and the two phases of the Reconciliation programme. The projects financed concern three main themes: support for the dynamics of return, support for Cnetral African radio stations and youth.
Beyond these three themes, some projects are directly targeted at supporting civil society organisations and supporting the redeployment of the state.
COMPONENT 1: Support for the dynamics of return
According to the United Nations, in November 2020, 622,000 Central Africans were refugees in neighbouring countries and 640,700 were internally displaced.
The first projects supported targeted refugees in Cameroon in order to limit potential tensions with local populations. Then, within the framework of the Reconciliation programme, Bêkou supported projects aimed at supporting and sustaining the dynamics of return (of refugees and IDPs) that began at the end of 2015.
These various projects have:
- provided access to basic services (food security; access to water, hygiene and sanitation; health care including mental health)
contributed to economic empowerment (vocational training, support for income-generating activities, etc.)
established/strengthened conflict prevention mechanisms.
"Before, I used to spend the day alone in the house with the children, without getting dressed or braiding my hair, without knowing what to do. It was difficult. Within a day I thought of killing myself, leaving and travelling or abandoning my children. But now my situation has improved thanks to this group. I no longer have severe headaches, I can sleep again. In the morning I have the strength and desire to get dressed, braid my hair and do my doughnut activities, as well as socialise with other people.”
A patient who experienced a traumatic event in 2014 testifies to the results of her group care.
Currently, the Bêkou Fund finances 3 projects dedicated to supporting returns:
- Kiri Ngo Na Kodro/Retour à la Communauté
The project is led by the Catholic Relief Consortium (lead), Aegis Trust, PCRC and World Vision. It has been running since November 2018 and is unique in that some of its activities are carried out in refugee camps in Cameroon. It will end in 2021.
- Doni Kiringo na kodor/Supporting and sustaining the dynamics of return in Bangui
The project was implemented by ACTED in partnership with Impact, Danish Refugee Council and Action contre la Faim. This project, mainly conducted in the capital Bangui, ended in March 2020. In addition to an important psychosocial support component, the project focused on the economic empowerment of the displaced through Labour Intensive Work (LIT) and support to Income Generating Activities (IGA).
- I Koue Boumbi Ti Ya Bambari Na Ndouzou/ All together for the recovery of Bambari
The project was conducted by Mercy Corps in collaboration with ACTED in the 5th city of the country. It ended in February 2020. It has notably allowed: the setting up of 24 Local Peace and Reconciliation Committees; the sensitisation of more than 51,000 people on living together; the care of 1,150 victims of gender-based violence in 4 listening centres; the development of 5 public works, the rehabilitation of 19 water points serving 5,700 people...
COMPONENT 2: Support for Central African radio stations
The Bêkou Fund supports Central African radio stations, including community radio stations. These are the ones that make up the bulk of the media landscape. Radio Ndéké-Luka is the most famous and most listened to of them. The Bêkou Fund also supports about 20 community radio stations.
Radio stations play a key role in providing objective information and promoting the exchange of opinions and dialogue. This support for the media and their independence is essential at a time when the Central African Republic has fallen 67 places in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index between 2013 and 2020, dropping from 65th place to 132nd.
In July 2020, the Bêkou Fund adopted a new phase of the Fondation Hirondelle project that will support Radio Ndeke Luka (RNL) and 12 community radio stations until the summer of 2023.
COMPONENT 3: Support for youth
A new feature of this second phase of the reconciliation programme (adopted in April 2020) is the focus on youth. Central African youth, who represent 70% of the population, are key actors for a sustainable reconciliation.
- A project focusing on youth centres should begin in 2021. It will strengthen youth centre teams in terms of human resources (recruitment of facilitators), governance (support for the establishment of management committees and the organisation of general assemblies) and operations (support in drawing up an action plan). It also has a component dedicated to supporting the activities of the Ministry of Youth and the National Youth Council.
In addition, each project financed by the other programmes of the Bêkou Fund integrates activities designed to renew links between individuals and communities. For example
- in the framework of support to rural development, projects focus on the peaceful management of transhumance for the benefit of all parties
- Within the framework of the gender programme, emphasis is placed on the victims of gender-based violence;
- In the framework of the RELSUDE programme, which is carried out in the south-west of the country, there is strong support for local radio stations;
- many projects focus on supporting local peace and reconciliation committees.
121 000 beneficiaries of peacebuilding and/or conflict prevention activities
44 600 refugees, forcibly displaced persons or people from host communities protected or assisted
21 radio stations supported, broadcasting in all the country's prefectures.