Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Kwa Na Kwa

So many interesting things have happened since I wrote last time.  Kwa Na Kwa means Work, only work in Sangho, the national language but is also the name of the political party that supports incumbent president Bozizé.

During the last few days I have been walking around Bangui to get a feeling of the city, its people and what it has to offer. I really like this place, it is small and you can reach most places by foot. I have not yet been bothered by the military or the police which is good as the security forces are the ones most likely to bother you when you walk around. Other than that it seems like a relatively safe city, at least during the day. There are no bad neighbourhoods Nairobi or Johannesburg style. I like that I do not have to worry about taking the wrong turn and end up in a bad area especially since I have no sense of orientation what so ever.  

Saturday evening I was invited to dinner by a person from the international community here with many years of experience working with SSR in African countries. It was really nice and he updated me on the current situation of the SSR process in CAR. We had local beer and fish with some kind of “specialité africaine” that looked like a mix of sea weed and dill. It was really good but too much food. Never too much beer though! We had a really nice time and he said he’ll introduce me to some of the main stake holders in the process during the coming weeks. I even might be able to come with him when he is meeting with other international actors and Central African counterparts. That would be fantastic as it would permit me to not only do in-depth interviews with people involved in the process but also to observe those actors when they discuss the subject. I cross my fingers and hope for that to happened. He said he would call me this week so I am waiting for that. 

Although it is both interesting and relevant to my research to meet representatives from the international community and the Central African government I also think it is important to hear the opinions from other actors on “lower” levels in the hierarchy like civil society and the low ranking soldiers. As civil society to a large extent has been left out of the process (as I understand it) it is important to get information from those actors as well. I have some contact details to civil society representatives but have not yet been able to get in touch with them. As for meeting with the soldiers I just might be able to do that as I’ll explain further down.

Last week there I wrote that there is this NGO man working to counter corruption who has his office in my neighbours’ building. Today he came by to see me and I actually had an interview with him as he had time. Luckily I had prepared some questions in advance just in case.  What he does is very interesting and relevant to SSR although his organisation is not formally involved in the process. Before he worked as a priest within the police and felt that there was a need to enhance the moral and ethics within the state institutions but also in the central African society at large. Therefore, in 2005, he stared the organisation Centre International pour le Développement de l’Ethique du Leadership (CIDEL). He is a very interesting man with a Ph.D from the US full of optimism and good energy. CIDEL is a non-profit organisation working with leaders on all level of society ranging from communal leaders to ministers to promote values that can consolidate good governance, accountability and a culture of peace. It is a small organisation that, although it has been active since 2005, only slowly has expanded it s activities. Mainly due to lack of resources and funding, currently financial aid largely comes from American churches. The main objective is to counter corruption and nepotism by getting leaders together to discuss ethical and moral issues. In 2010 the organisation helped creating frameworks for preventing corruption together with several ministries (Justice, Public Security, Defence, Administration du Territoire). Before that CIDEL has supported reforms of the Ministry of Finance in 2008. Although the work of the organisation to a large extent overlaps with the objectives of the SSR process there is no cooperation between the international actors supporting SSR and CIDEL. At this early stage I cannot draw any conclusions about the reasons for this but what is sure is that trying to change the mindset of the leadership, be it ministers, officers or religious leaders is definitely necessary to achieve any actual change. To me it seems like it is an important complement to institutional reforms and probably should be a part of the SSR agenda. I am looking forward to meet more representatives for civil society. 

So at this point in time the focus of my research still is on how and why foreign supported SSR contribute to law and order. I have had some trouble to decide whether I should use the term “law and order” or “peace” or something else like “capacity” but at least I have made it clear how I define it. What I am interested in is to understand how and why/why not SSR contributes to the following:

     1. The presence/absence of illegal armed groups on the territory of the state 2.Acts of violence/absence acts of violence directed towards civilians by either illegal armed groups or the state security forces.

The state security forces are at the heart of this, hence the personnel within those forces is of interest. Has the SSR process affected the soldiers and the policemen’s will and capacity to protect civilians? This is one of the crucial questions I believe. I started to think more and more about how important it is that the reforms actually penetrate down to those that are meant to provide security to the population. I mean, no matter how much local ownership, resources and involvement of non-state actors there is, if the state security forces continue to prey upon the population the SSR process has somewhat failed. 

My study is explorative and even though it is theoretically driven and based on previous research I try to keep an open mind to be able to identify other possible explanations to why SSR does/does not contribute to peace than those proposed by the existing literature. Whether the reforms actually penetrate vertically is something I not yet have seen examined in the SSR literature. I am sure there are studies and any suggestions on readings are welcomed! 

The thought to focus on the effects of SSR on the will and capacity of the soldiers to provide security to the population came to me Sunday as I was introduced to a an officer of the Forces Armées Centrafricaine (FACA) who is working as aumônier militaire, an army chaplain that is. The neighbour just next to me in the same compound is a missionary just like those next door and  he had met this man in church and invited him for lunch. As my neighbour knows what I am doing here he asked me if I wanted to join them and so I did. It was very interesting to listen to this officer and he wanted to introduce me to some of the soldiers he is working with here in Bangui. This is a fantastic opportunity to actually talk to the soldiers and get a better understanding of the effect that SSR has/does not have on their work. I have been thinking about different methods so that I will get as much as possible out of it and thought a questionnaire would be good, given that they are literate. 

Then yesterday evening he was at my neighbour’s house again and we talked for a while and he said the soldiers do have some basic knowledge of writing and reading in French which actually surprised me. I showed him some suggestions for a questionnaire with around 20 questions that I started to work on Sunday evening, he approved with the questions and helped me to reformulate some of them. First however I have to meet the soldiers to get familiar with them. Hopefully I can arrange to go see them by the end of the week. We’ll see how this all goes but I am quite optimistic. 

Lots of things are happening and I didn’t get that much time to “adapt”. I have heard that field research can sometimes be slow in the beginning but in CAR there is no such thing as research fatigue, this country has been forgotten for such a long time. People are very eager to share their stories and experiences. Although I haven’t had that much time to relax at least I have had the opportunity to go with my neighbours’ to cool down in the swimming pool at the Residence of the US Ambassador, which is open to everyone from the American Community and their guests. I was there on Saturday and then again yesterday afternoon. It is great to get into the water for an hour after lunch when it is too hot to work and then come back home with new energy to work a bit in the evening before it is time to go to bed.   

It looks like I will be able to meet with different actors that are somehow affected by or involved in the SSR process at some level. It is almost a bit too good to be true. I guess I just have to enjoy that it all goes well now in the beginning because I am sure I will run into obstacles and problems along the way. I promise that you will hear all about it then...

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