New atrocities prevention tools are already saving lives. The case of the Central African Republic underscores how new U.S. government tools are helping to better support an end to violence against civilians.
Just last month, political power transitioned peacefully in CAR when the newly-elected President Faustin-Archange Touadéra officially took office. This remarkable development comes only three years after the Séléka opposition group ousted former President François Bozizé in a coup d’état that led to widespread clashes between the Séléka and militia groups known as the anti-Balaka.
Almost five years after the conflict began the people of CAR deserve the credit for their tremendous efforts to build and consolidate peace, leading to a peaceful transition in political power. In late 2012, when mass violence broke out the United States led the international community in helping to mitigate atrocities and prevent further violence. The Atrocities Prevention Board played a pivotal role in catalyzing U.S. efforts to protect civilians and prevent further violence. These peacebuilding programs have led to voluntary disarmament, dramatic positive increases in community relations, and commitments to reintegrate and safeguard minorities.
I visited CAR last year and met with community leaders receiving support from the U.S. government to build peace in Bossangoa, a town that was the epicenter of violence about 200 miles north of the capital. These community-led initiatives are designed to address internal and external tensions. Training and coordination is being supported by USAID through theComplex Crises Fund.
In one example, knowing that fighting has historically broken out between villagers and the Fulani (nomadic pastoralists who travel through the region), a village chief asked members of the social cohesion committee to travel out to meet a group of Fulani while they were still several kilometers away. This outreach helped to rebuild trust between both groups. Since then, they have been able to negotiate the entrance of the pastoralists into the village to sell and buy goods at the market, and the village chief has gone on to become a great advocate for the needs of the Fulani, lobbying on their behalf in meetings concerning humanitarian and development assistance.
CAR demonstrates how new atrocities prevention structures, tools, and resources like the Atrocities Prevention Board and the Complex Crises Fund are being used effectively.
In February, Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced the Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, S.2551, which would officially codify the Atrocities Prevention Board and the Complex Crises Fund.
This effort is critical if the work of atrocities prevention is to continue, but additional support is needed.