IOM Promotes Community Cohesion on CAR Independence Day

By International Office of Migration (IOM)

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 5, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- On 1 December, Central African Republic (CAR) Independence Day, IOM, in collaboration with the Frères Centrafricains pour la Paix, organized the first mixed community mass event for a year in the 3rd district of the capital, Bangui.

The peaceful gathering brought together over 5,000 people from various communities in Bangui for the first time since 5th December 2013, when fighting broke out, resulting in widespread violence and the mass displacement of over 500,000 people in city.

Before the event, former international CAR football players conducted a large-scale community sensitization campaign for community members of different ethnic and religious background for several weeks to share information and encourage Muslim community members living in the highly volatile area of PK5 to participate.

As a result, more than 2,000 people from PK5 gathered at the mayor's office of the 3rd district on 1 December, which, following its renovation by IOM, has become one of the main gathering points for the community.

The group, escorted by organizers wearing IOM and donor visibility gear, walked through abandoned areas, the scene of previous atrocities and current IOM-organized cash-for-work activities, to the predominantly Christian Fatima neighbourhood, where the event took place on the Fatima school football field.

“This is the first time since September 2013 that I have left PK5,” said Ousman, 19. “Due to the insecurity, we always stay in our neighbourhood. It is very exciting to go back there. I used to go to school in Fatima. I hope I will be able to see many of my former classmates today, hopefully everyone will come.”

The arrival of the group was met with applause and cheering by a crowd of around 1,000 people from other neighbourhoods in the 3rd and 5th districts. There were many emotional encounters between long lost friends.

The main event was a football match between former CAR football stars, community members, IOM and other actors, who played in mixed teams. There were also other events, including traditional and modern dances, music acts performed by well-known Central African comedian and singer-songwriter Dr. Mandjike, the Association of Central African Artists and the National Comedians Association. A total of

over 5,000 people attended.

Participants included community leaders, mayors and representatives of the government, representatives of the Ex-Seleka and Anti-Balaka movements, and various community-based self-defense groups.

The event was part of IOM's European Union (EU)-funded “Community Stabilization and Early Recovery for At-risk Communities in Bangui” project, which aims to contribute to stability in Bangui's most volatile districts by increasing dialogue between different communities, revitalizing economic exchange, and rehabilitating community-based infrastructure. Over 20 events to increase social cohesion have taken place to date, with a total of over 100,000 participants.