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NDI

The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

Central African Republic

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A group of rebels called I (“alliance” in the local language Sango) launched a rebellion in the Central African Republic (CAR) at the end of 2012.  The rebels accused President François Bozizé of failing to abide by peace agreements signed in 2007. Seleka captured a dozen major towns in the central and eastern regions of the country, however, their offensive stopped short of the capital where troops from Angola, Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and South Africa were stationed to hold back their advance. A ceasefire was signed Jan. 11, 2013, in Libreville, Gabon, that allows Bozizé to stay in office until his term ends in 2016. The peace agreement also called for a national unity government led by a prime minister chosen by the political opposition, who was appointed Jan. 17.

The 2011 electoral process in the CAR served as prelude to the 2012 rebellion. The elections suffered from irregularities and security threats that ultimately caused it to fall short of many Central Africans’ expectations. Instead, Bozizé’s Kwa Na Kwa (KNK) party held onto the presidency and gained near-total control of the legislature.

In March 2013, a coup overthrew President Bozizé and the Seleka rebel coalition took power. Its leader, Michel Djotodia, was appointed transitional head of state by a National Transitional Council, which will play the role of legislative body during the 18-month transition leading to general elections and a new constitution.

Local elections, long promised by successive governments, have been delayed numerous times and local authorities are currently appointed by the central government. This further slows down the decentralization process, which would allow local authorities to help citizens with everyday problems without having to wait for solutions from Bangui, the capital. Decentralization is important for boosting local control over programs in an effort to improve governance. A limited understanding on the part of citizens and civil society organizations on the benefits of decentralization, combined with an unregulated decentralization process, further impedes its successful implementation.

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Promoting Citizen Engagement in Democratic Development

Throughout 2011 and 2012, the National Elections Observatory (Observatoire National des Elections, ONE), a coalition of more than 50 civil society organizations, worked with NDI and government ministries, the High Commissioner for Decentralization and Regionalization, local radio stations and international partners to increase dialogue on governance and develop priorities among citizens, allowing them to advocate for decentralization and local elections.

The program, which was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), included seminars on local governance for 13 of ONE’s members to help them better understand the decentralization process and how it could help the country. Working with Radio Ndeke Luka (RNL) and the Association of Community Radios (ARC), ONE distributed 10 radio spots and eight sketches to radio stations to help educate listeners on their roles and responsibilities as citizens in the decentralization process.  Members of ONE were also interviewed on the radio to better explain decentralization and its importance to local communities. 

Members of ONE travelled around the country, giving talks about decentralization to local development committees, explaining the process and identifying local development priorities.  Thirty-eight discussion sessions were held, reaching 1,530 members of local development committees and 121 village chiefs.  The radio-based civic education programs aired 1,787 times and reached an estimated two million Central African citizens.

Advocacy Training and Data Collection

NDI organized two educational sessions with ONE. The first session focused on how to organize and plan an advocacy campaign, identifying ways to advocate for decentralization in CAR, and how to use the advocacy techniques to present ONE’s analysis of the decentralization process in CAR to those responsible for its implementation.  The second session focused on data analysis to help ONE analyze responses to questionnaires administered during awareness-raising missions. The missions were conducted to explain the decentralization process to local development committees in three targeted regions and identify local development priorities. The questionnaires sought to ascertain participants’ perceptions and expectations of local governance.  Two hundred and sixteen participants were interviewed, allowing ONE to identify two principal governance concerns among the local populations: the management of resources and access to local government.

The advocacy training helped ONE members learn the importance of planning in advocacy campaigns and to identify ways to advocate for decentralization in the CAR. The workshop also prepared ONE members to use the advocacy techniques to present their analysis to the political actors responsible for decentralization.

Strengthening Citizen Engagement in Electoral Processes

During the first round of legislative elections in 2011, 500 domestic observers from ONE monitored elections in 14 of the CAR’s prefectures and in Bangui, with support from NDI. For the runoff, 304 domestic observers monitored the vote in seven prefectures and in Bangui.

NDI also worked with RNL to create and air voter education sketches and programs in French and Sango.  These sketches provided basic information on decentralization and citizen rights and responsibilities to an estimated two million listeners.

The Institute also supported its regional partner, the Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa by publishing the findings and recommendations from its election observation missions in a report.  NDI organized a post-election roundtable with CAR’s constitutional court, the Independent Election Commission (CEI), political parties, the international community, public and private media, and ONE, to discuss lessons learned from the 2011 election cycle and to develop recommendations for improving elections and furthering democratic development.

As a result of these activities, citizen understanding of civic and electoral processes and participation in the process increased. ONE also emerged as the most effective election observation network in the country’s history. ONE was the first Central African election monitoring organization ever to observe the entire election process — from voter registration through the election dispute process. It also developed a strong reputation for integrity and neutrality: the coalition is still regularly solicited by RNL and other media outlets looking for technically competent and politically neutral opinions on elections-related topics.

Contact Information

For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:

Washington, D.C.
Grant Godfrey, Program Manager
(202) 728-5546

 

Published Publication Title Author
01/24/2011 National Elections Observatory’s Statement on the January 23, 2011 Election (CAR)
Statement
National Elections Observatory (Observatoire National des Elections - ONE)
11/02/2010 Preliminary Statement on Voter Registration in the Central African Republic
Statement
National Elections Observatory
09/01/2010 Capsules D'Information et de Sensibilisation sur le Processus Electoral en Republique Centrafricaine
Manual|Handbook
L'Observatoire National des Elections (ONE) & National Democratic Institute
12/01/2008 NDI Reports: A Review of the Activities of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs
Newsletter
National Democratic Institute
01/01/2000 Rapport Atelier D'évaluation du Processus Electoral en R.C.A.
Report
National Democratic Institute
07/25/1995 Political Internationals and Francophone Africa, July 20-21, 1995, Bangui, CAR, July 24-26, 1995, Brazzaville, Congo, Mission Re
Report
National Democratic Institute
10/10/1994 Inter-regional Seminar for Multiparty Legislatures in Emerging Democracies, October 10-13, 1994, Bangui, CAR, Debriefing and Ana
Report
National Democratic Institute