Over the last year, the Central African Republic has seen a dramatic increase in levels of violence. An estimated two thirds of the country is controlled by armed groups and the province of Hotte Kotto is one of the worst affected. It is home to Ibrahim Abraham, and alongside our local partners, he is working to reunite communities.
I grew up in the province of Haute Kotto. It was once a peaceful and prosperous place. The resources were plentiful, people could grow their own food – we provided for the nation.
This region is home to four ethnic groups - both Muslims and Christians – who once lived peacefully together. When Muslims were fasting, they would invite Christians to celebrate with them. Christians would give their children Muslim names. We loved each other, supported each other.
But now everything has changed.
The conflict broke out in 2009, when I was 34 years old. Because Haute Kotto had an abundance of natural resources, agriculture, and diamonds, the rebel groups in our country decided to base themselves there. They could feed their conflict with diamonds and minerals.
People also came from neighboring countries, from Chad and South Sudan. They came with weapons and guns and started subjugating our people.
Because those people from Chad and South Sudan spoke Arabic, they began to associate themselves with the Arabic speakers in our community. That was the starting point for the division and discrimination in our society – because the local population starting looking at those who associated with foreigners, as foreigners themselves.
At the time the conflict broke out, I was at University in Bangui. The Muslim and Christian friends I had grown up with also came to University with me. We studied together for six years, but when conflict broke out in Haute Kotte, many of them returned home and joined the rebel groups. Once they had joined the groups, it was impossible for them to leave.
I was determined to tackle the issues of division in my community. I began working with community leaders and religious leaders, and together we began to talk to the armed groups in the region.
It is really important to talk with armed groups, because through this dialogue they become aware of the negative impact they are having. Through our dialogue, the leader of one of the armed groups decided to lay down his weapons and return to civil life.
Now, I work as the focal point for Femme Hommes Action Plus (FHAP) in the province of Haute Kotto, I am a peacebuilder, that is what I do, and our organisation trains others to work for peace too.
The is still a lot of work to be done in Hotte Kotto, it really is an abandoned place. There is no mayor, no leaders and no security. But we are working to support the population affected by conflict and violence, and to support young people to stay away from violence.
Photo: Jjumba Martin/Conciliation Resources
Source: Conciliation Resources