In the Central African Republic, women stand up for justice

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Rosalie Kobo Beth (right), spokesperson for the I Londo Awè! Association, in Bangui, in September 2020.

Rosalie Kobo Beth knows where she’s from and what she wants. “In the Central African Republic, women are educated to stay within a defined framework, not to ask for more, she regrets. We dare to show off. ” The young woman is a spokesperson for the I Londo Awè association! (“We are rising!”), Whose objective is clear as well as ambitious: to achieve parity in the decision-making bodies of the country.

For their first campaign, they focus on the composition of the future truth commission of the Central African Republic (CAR), responsible for reviewing the crimes committed since 1959. A delicate and crucial work in this country still ravaged by violence and including one large part of the territory remains under the cut of armed groups.

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Following the model of the South African truth commission set up at the end of apartheid, the eleven members of the Truth, Justice, Reparations and Reconciliation Commission (CVJRR) will have to listen to testimonies, facilitate forgiveness, make reparations, material or symbolic. .

In the Central African Republic, a law passed in 2017 provides for the presence of 35% of women in the country’s decision-making spheres, then 50% after ten years. The association I Londo Awè! wants parity now. More than others, Achta knows that this is more than symbolism, especially when it comes to healing wounds and advancing reconciliation.

Refer women for care

The almost thirty-something works for the Muslim Organization for Innovation in the Central African Republic (Omica) in a counseling center for victims of sexual violence in the PK5 district of Bangui, the Central African capital. She collects their testimonies, directs them for care, or for complaints. “The CVJRR will have to investigate crimes against women, she recalls. However, many sisters do not dare to speak in front of men. “

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She knows this from having suffered two rapes herself in 2016. When she came to seek support in the center where she works today, she was unsettled when she realized that a man, a Muslim like her, would collect her testimony: ” It was very difficult. I felt ashamed. ”

Side judicial, Achta ended up dropping his complaint, scalded by the long procedures and the incessant interrogations always carried out by men. Today she is still afraid to cross paths “His executioners”, but thinks of presenting his story to the future CVJRR, “To give strength to my sisters”.

“Rape as a warlike tactic”

This is one of the characteristics of this type of extrajudicial court: “This is a more empathetic, caring form of justice, where the victim is supported, encouraged”, underlines Jean-Pierre Massias, professor of public law at the University of Pau. What to make one “Effective tool” against the feeling of impunity, judges the specialist: “If you set up a special criminal court, you will catch a maximum of 1% of rapists, the facts being difficult to prove. ” Where a criminal court will try the rapist, the CVJRR will be able to prosecute rape, a massive phenomenon in the Central African Republic and against which it is proving difficult to fight.

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In 2019 alone, the country’s NGOs identified more than 3,000 “Incidents resulting from sexual violence”. These data under-represent the situation, taking into account only part of the country and only testimonies. In the Central African Republic, rape is used “In a generalized and systematic way as a warlike tactic”, noted in 2019 a forum of the human rights organization Human Rights Watch.

Worse, conflict-related sexual violence has led to an explosion of cases at the domestic level. “The tipping point was the early 2000srecalls Nadia Carine Fornel Poutou, president of the Association of Central African Women Lawyers, which provides legal assistance to victims. Before, there was the weight of traditions, but not so many crimes. “

“The CVJRR should have an educational function on rape, in a society that has become permissive”, says Jean-Pierre Massias. A mission that involves winning the trust of the population and focusing its mandate largely on violence against women. “In this, concludes M. Massias, the choice of commissioners will be essential. “

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