Friday, 9 September 2011

Beer at the President's sister's house

Wednesday I had a beer at the president’s sisters house. It was all very odd I actually wasn’t meant to be there. It all happened thanks to my abilities to communicate with Norwegians... One of my Central African contacts here called me Wednesday and asked if I wanted to have a drink. Of course I did. We went to a bar, had some beer and then he needed to go as he had a meeting with some foreign investors working in the energy sector. As they were next door at a hotel he said we would pick them up and then he would drive me home. Great. It turned out that one of those men was Norwegian. As I am Swedish and on top of that married to a Norwegian I greeted the Norwegian in Swedish. My contact thought this was fascinating and asked me if I wanted to go with them, I could translate if there were any language difficulties. Sure I said but it wasn’t really necessary as one of the investors was a Cameroonian man speaking both French and English. Anyway, I thought we would go for dinner but in the car my contact said we were going to the president’s sister’s house. That’s how I ended up watching three men interacting with the president’s sister while drinking beer. It was very interesting indeed. I was particularly fascinated by the South African guy who was not only very direct and explained that first of all he didn’t deem it necessary to meet with the president, second that they were interested in investing in the energy sector and NOT to build schools, hospitals or other things that the president’s sister was asking for, thirdly he asked her for a picture of the president but as she didn’t have one that she could give away he got one of her instead. He was really happy and said he would put the picture on the wall in his office. We were all laughing at his funny behaviour except for the Norwegian who just sat there quietly. It was all very odd. Then we were off and I went home.

Other than drinking beer at the president’s sister’s house I have met with some government officials who are in charge of the reforms of the different subsectors of SSR. Tuesday I met with those in charge of: intelligence, city and town planning and democratic oversight. I was introduced to them by my contact from the international community and I got the opportunity to listen to him talking with them about the process. I plan to schedule some interviews with those people next week but just by listening to their conversation I got a really good understanding of the process which facilitates conducting the interviews. In the afternoon I went to the office of the deputy national coordinator for SSR who showed me all the important documents and explained where the process is at. I came at a very good time it turned out. The process has been stalling for over a year due to the electoral process, however most short-term goals have been accomplished and now it is time to re-launch the process and develop strategies for the mid-term. There is only one sector that has a mid-term strategy: democratic oversight. It is great that he gives me access to all the documents but even better I can work at his office if I want which gives me the opportunity to consult the documents and use internet. That is really very kind of him. 

Yesterday he picked me up at home and we went to the office together in the morning. It is not that far away, I could walk but the Central Africans have a hard time understanding that white people can walk to places. I was working for a while and then we went to the Minister of Defence (MoD) where I met a really interesting person. It is a young Lieutenant who works as a military advisor to the chief of staff at the MoD. He also wrote his master thesis at the University of Yaoundé while doing an internship together with the national coordinator. The thesis deals with the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) process here in CAR. Very interesting as DDR is closely linked to SSR and a necessity for any type of reforms to actually be fruitful in consolidating peace. He also explained that the conflict(s) in CAR are extremely complex as there are several dimensions to it. 

There is the politico-military dimension, the elite level of the conflict, then there is an ethnical dimension to it and on top of that there are tensions between pastoralists and farmers which occasionally lead to outbreaks of violence. Furthermore the Lord’s Resistance army (LRA), Chadian rebels and criminal elements are operating on the territory which shows the regional dimension of the conflict.

Now the army chaplain just arrived to the café we will talk about the questionnaires to the soldiers.

New update next week.

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