Donors to the Central African Republic were to meet in Brussels on Thursday to discuss aid for the strife-ridden and poverty-stricken nation. Rights groups have called for funding for its Special Criminal Court.
Since its independence from France in 1960, the Central African Republic has lived through several coups and coup attempts, suppression of opposition parties and a military junta's brutal rule. The most recent political conflict arose when largely Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew Christian President Francois Bozize in March 2013.
The nation was plunged into more than two years of sectarian violence and lawlessness between Seleka and Christian anti-Balaka militia that killed thousands of people.
Despite the presence of an almost 13,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA), flare-ups of violence continue to plague CAR. Overall, the situation has however somewhat stabilized since Faustin Touadera was elected president in March 2015.
DW has been talking to Amnesty International's Ilaria Allegrozzi.
How do you think the donors' conference will help Central African Republic (CAR) overcome deficits in governance and development?
We think this is a key opportunity for all donors to the central Africa republic to really make a difference and to pledge enough resources to make a change in CAR. We don't know whether this is going to be the last opportunity, but we feel that it is a key opportunity anyway especially to invest in certain sectors, in particular in justice. This is especially important because of the climate of impunity in CAR. Members of armed groups and militia are alleged to have committed appalling human rights violations and crimes under international law and are still freely moving around the country and continue to fuel violence. The situation is still very tense. CAR is very fragile, even though there has been progress with elections being held last December and in February of this year. There is still a lot to be done as far stopping the violence and the protection of civilians is concerned.
What is the state of human rights in the country, generally, apart from what you have just said?
The security situation has sharply deteriorated since September with numerous attacks against civilians throughout the country, in Bangui and also in the provinces, In Kaga Bandoro, [A] UN protection [force] was attacked and almost 40 people were killed by ex-Seleka fighters. So violence is still going on and it is fuelled by this climate of impunity.
The Central African Republic has created its own court - the Special Criminal Court. It is not yet operational. What are your expectations as far as international backing is concerned?
The Special Criminal Court really represents a unique opportunity to assure accountability in Central African Republic. It is a short-term solution given that the national justice system is very weak at the moment. Its aim is to build public confidence in the justice system in CAR, to bring to an end the pervasive culture of impunity. It is an opportunity to draw from lessons learnt, both positive and negative, from the experience of other tribunals established in other post-conflict situations.
There are lots of advantages in a Special Criminal Court. First of all, the structure and the presence of international judges - persons from outside - will allow the court to function in an independent and impartial way compared to the national justice system. There are also greater guarantees that prosecutions and trial before the Special Criminal Court will be conducted in accordance with international trial standards. It is really important that this court gets up and running as soon as possible and is established for the trial of perpetrators of grave human rights violations.
Can you see CAR escaping from this cycle of fragility and crisis in the near future?
Again, it is a key opportunity. All the key donors to Central Africa Republic will be in Brussels today (Thursday) pledging resources for CAR. It is important that these resources are sustained over the years. We call on all the donors to make sure justice is prioritized in their financial pledges.
Illaria Allegrozzi is a spokesperson for Amnesty International in Brussels
Interview: Jane Ayeko Kümmeth