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Dialogue for peace in Bangui’s PK5 neighbourhood

Residents of the Bangui’s Kilometre 5 (PK5) neighbourhood, local authorities government representatives and MINUSCA leadership gathered, on Monday September 14, 2020, at the Commissariat of the city’s 3rd arrondissement to discuss a familiar subject – recurrent tensions and insecurity that have long plagued the area.

Convened on the back of a recent shooting incident directed at the area’s police station, the meeting is the first of a series of planned discussions between the Mission, community leaders and the local population in order to restore calm to the area. Long considered a hotspot in the Central African Republic's (CAR) capital, the PK5 neighbourhood has been the seat of numerous flare-ups among various groups over the years.

In the presence of the CAR Minister for Public Security, Henri Wanze Linguissara, community members decried the perennial insecurity in their neighbourhood. Besides shooting incidents, they listed a host of challenges they are faced with on a daily basis, such as criminality, robbery, traffic jams and widespread unemployment.

“The well-being of the residents of PK5 is an issue that is close to my heart. It is important to reunite all concerned parties, as has been done many times before. The aim is to primarily listen to their perception of the issue and their expectations,” said Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in CAR, Denise Brown.

According to Chief Balla of the Gbaya Dombia 2 neighbourhood, “restoration of State authority in the neighbourhood is key.” Referencing two recent fatalities in the area, he called for authorities to set up checkpoints at strategic points in the most vulnerable parts of the arrondissement. Kokolo 3 neighbourhood chief, Wilibia Herve Boris, expressed gratitude for previous government and MINUSCA efforts to ensure security, including the setting up of a crisis committee and the establishment a proximity police team. He urged authorities to “visit all 32 neighbourhoods of the arrondissement to better understand the facts on the ground.” For his part, the chief of the Kaba-Union neighbourhood, Aka Arsene, called for foot patrols by security forces.

Other community members called for the establishment of more police posts. Two former ex-combatants stressed the importance of encouraging PK5’s youth to join the CAR’s Internal Security Forces, citing massive youth unemployment as a potential catalyst to unrest. Hamat Deleris, 1st Vice-President of the CAR Islamic Community called for an end to the “regrettable” finger-pointing between different groups on the basis of religion. Fita Kona, 1st Adviser at the Mayor’s Office highlighted the need for “increased awareness-raising on Covid-19.” 

“Having listened to all your contributions, I have a feeling that together, we can accomplish something meaningful. I encourage the youth of the 3rd arrondissement to take part in the ongoing recruitment drive for police and gendarmerie officers to CAR’s Internal Security Forces,” said the Head of MINUSCA’s Police Component (UNPol), Major General Pascal Champion. “It is important that the police and gendarmes coming to PK5 are able to conduct their work here; they need to respect and to be respected by the population.”

Brigadier General Bamaro Coulibalily, Commander for the Joint Task Force of Bangui (JTFB) noted that all efforts to secure the area “necessitated the consent of government authorities and the cooperation of the local population.”

The current challenges notwithstanding, DSRSG Denise Brown emphasized that it is important to “remain hopeful.”  In his closing remarks, Minister Wanze Linguissara reminding those present that the officers at the PK5 police station were “fellow Central Africans.” He cautioned against “continually being suspicious of each other” and urged community chiefs to mobilize their residents to be proactive in peacebuilding, instead of relying on outside actors to mediate and bring about peace in their community.