President Catherine Samba-Panza of the Central African Republic (CAR) has said that she will use her transitional government to strengthen diplomatic ties with Rwanda to learn how to transform a post-conflict society and strengthen both the economy and women empowerment in her country.
Samba-Panza, who was speaking in an exclusive interview with The New Times from her office in the capital Bangui, this week, said they will soon open a consulate in Kigali that would help CAR in knowledge sharing.
“With the help of our Consulate General in Rwanda, which we will soon set up, we would like to have a framework for cooperation in the economy, the military, culture, and many other sectors,” she said.
President Samba-Panza has until August to organise elections and get the country out of the transitional government but she will first have to organise a national dialogue of citizens and ensure that the country is secure enough for presidential and parliamentary elections to take place.
Rwanda, whose army is currently in charge of Samba-Panza’s security and strategic installations of the city, including the central bank, has evolved into a peaceful country with a sound economy despite a history of a horrendous genocide just 20 years ago.
During the interview, the CAR President said she has sent some members of her administration to Rwanda, including some women parliamentarians, to learn how to manage a post-conflict society such as hers and empower vulnerable members of society such as women and the youth.
“We understand that Rwanda is a friendly country that is ready to help us because they sent their sons and daughters to risk their lives so they can help bring peace to CAR,” she said.
“For us, that is an opportunity to open up and strengthen our cooperation with Rwanda in different sectors.”
In the past one year, Rwandan men and women in uniform have been serving under the African Union Mission (Misca) and later United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in CAR (Minusca).
Fresh from a deadly civil war that turned into a secterian conflict with the country’s Muslims and Christians fighting each other, CAR needs all the help it can get in almost every sector.
President Samba-Panza, who has been in office for a year, said she inherited a country with a paralysed administration because of the war and admits that ensuring security has been the priority on her agenda all along.
“I took hold of the country when it was in a very difficult situation. There were religion-based social fractures between communities, dominant insecurity in the entire country, a humanitarian crisis with our refugees outside the country and internally displaced people hovering everywhere, as well as a paralysed public administration and economic activities because there was no security,” she said.
Both the Muslims’ leader in Bangui, the Imam Oumar Kobine Layama, and the Roman Catholic Church Archbishop, Monsignor Dieudonné Nzapalainga, have called for tolerance between Muslims and Christians.
Analysts say reconciliation in CAR is far from coming since there first has to be disarmament of the Islamic Séléka militia and Christians organised under anti-Balaka militia.
“Armed groups don’t allow the population to sit together and talk about reconciliation,” said Antoinette Montaigne, the minister in charge of reconciliation in Samba-Panza’s transitional government.
Montaigne said their president has a vision for social cohesion and reconciliation and can’t wait for full security to take shape so that peace building dialogues between people can start.