The Peace-building role of Civil Society in Central Africa

The seminar, which was held from 10 to 12 April 2006 in Douala, Cameroon, brought together about 30 key actors in the peace and security field from civil society organisations; representatives of UN agencies based in central Africa and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS); and participants from west and southern Africa. The seminar provided an opportunity for civil society actors, representatives of ECCAS and other relevant players to analyse and understand the causes and consequences of conflict in central Africa as the initial steps towards the development of sustainable strategies for conflict prevention and the consolidation of peace in the sub-region. The hosting of the seminar was timely, as a number of ECCAS member states have recently emerged from protracted violent conflicts. Since the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has conducted two elections and embarked on post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding initiatives. In Burundi, elections were held in July 2005 and were overseen by the UN Mission in Burundi (ONUB). The DRC, which has hosted one of the most violent and protracted civil wars on the continent since 1997, has established a government of national unity since 2003 and held its first democratic elections in 46 years in July and August 2006. These are all positive developments for a sub-region that has for long been the theatre of conflicts on the continent. Sustainable peace in central Africa will, however, require the concerted efforts of a strong, vibrant and empowered civil society, as well as a responsive and capacitated sub-regional body.