In order to strengthen cooperation in the area of peace and security, the Central African Peace and Security Council (COPAX), was created in 2004 not only to deploy military and civilian missions but also to participate in mediation in crisis situations in the sub-region. In this context, and to promote an inclusive mediation approach in Central Africa, ECCAS is setting up an ECCAS Regional Network of Women Mediators which aims at strengthening the role of women in mediation and conflict prevention.
The establishment of @CEEAC_ECCAS network of women mediators in Central Africa is helping to strengthen women’s participation in peace processes in the regionTweet
Central Africa, which is stable overall, is experiencing security and humanitarian crises in some areas of the countries in the sub-region. These situations lead to population displacements both domestically and towards neighbouring countries. The countries bordering the conflict zones are suffering the collateral effects of the crises with the flow of refugees and humanitarian crises.
During these conflicts, women are affected differently by the crisis, as they constitute the majority of displaced persons and are among the most vulnerable segments of the population. These conflicts accentuate the gap by increasing the violence perpetrated on women and girls in areas occupied by armed groups.
Encouraging progress has been observed by the Central African Member States to strengthen approaches to the protection of civilians and women in particular, as well as to increase their involvement at the decision-making table, in accordance with the various United Nations (UN) resolutions and African Union (AU) decisions, among others.
The ECCAS Commission is in the front line to support the implementation of UN Resolution 1325 by focusing on ways to address the challenges and tools for the acceleration of the implementation of Resolution 1325. The ECCAS Summit of Heads of State and Government of 30 July 2020 adopted the ECCAS Regional Action Plan for the implementation of UN Resolution 1325, reiterating its commitment to taking into account the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
The political will shown by governments in the region is evident in the increase in the number of National Action Plans relating to Resolution 1325, for example, but also in the efforts made to implement the resolution. However, a number of challenges persist in Central Africa. These include the insufficient level of knowledge of Resolution 1325 within different Member States as well as the persistent deficit in the involvement of women in peace and security mechanisms, particularly in negotiation and mediation processes, such as the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic (CAR).
The Women, Peace and Security agenda is one of the priorities retained in the ECCAS Indicative Strategic Plan 2021-2025. This justifies the central role that women must play in conflict prevention and peace processes in Central Africa.
The place of women in negotiations and mediation in Central Africa
Numerous negotiations have been held for the cessation of hostilities and a return to peace in different countries within the Central African region. However, at these negotiating tables women have been under-represented and sometimes excluded from these processes, which are nevertheless crucial stages in the political and social history of their countries. Indeed, a UN study revealed that only two percent of chief mediators, nine percent of negotiators and four percent of signatories were women in all major peace processes conducted between 1990 and 2017.
However, a small number of them were able to access these negotiations only after intense lobbying, while on the ground, women’s associations are actively mobilising for advocacy for peace and reconciliation. Women continue to be side-lined and denied the opportunity to be negotiators between the conflicting parties.
The exclusion of women from the peace process and their absence from the negotiating table has unfortunate consequences for social justice, socio-economic development and national reconciliation in conflict and post-conflict countries. As a result, women at the grassroots level have little information and understanding of the processes taking place in the countries. However, in recent years, it has been observed that there has been a rise in several women’s groups and local networks for protection, women’s participation in conflict prevention and peace building which have emerged in many countries in the region. In response to shortcomings, women have mobilised to make their voices heard at the regional level. Hence their commitment to collectively influence discussions on the security, political, economic and social situation in their countries and the region.
The establishment of the network of women mediators of Central Africa is a necessity, firstly as an obligation for ECCAS, given its status as one of the constituent pillars of the AU. Additionally, taking into consideration the history of conflicts, their nature, persistence in certain countries and taking into account the efforts made by ECCAS to put in place certain infrastructures for peace, the need for an inclusive participation in peace is critical.
Therefore, the network which will bring together women active in mediation at community, political and national levels in Central Africa will play a significant role in the peace processes of the region and will promote the effective participation of women in conflict prevention and mediation.
In 2019, the ECCAS Meeting of Ministers of Gender and the Advancement of Women recommended the establishment of a Network of Women Mediators of Central Africa, a network that could better position women in the Central African region at the continental and even global level on peace and security issues. Indeed, since the Beijing movement of the mid-1990s, women in several ECCAS member countries have formed associations and networks to become involved in peacekeeping. In several ECCAS countries, women’s networks are now helping to restore calm and peace, promote women’s fundamental rights, and train women’s groups and other citizens in peaceful conflict resolution techniques. Some women’s organisations organise exchange sessions on the evolution of the security situation and create opportunities for alerting the authorities to the factors that can upset social equilibrium.
Women’s initiatives and their participation in local conflict prevention, mediation of inter- and intra-community conflicts and management of cross-border human security are a springboard for the consolidation of more responsive and inclusive governance structures. They are part of efforts to increase social inclusion in the search for sustainable solutions for peace and security in Central Africa. Building on the already established potential of women and girls as key actors capable of influencing the return of peace to the region. The strengthening of their networks and capacities, including by assuming a stronger cross-border and regional dimension, if properly supported, could be a powerful building block for the rapprochement between States and the citizenry, integration and consolidation of regional identity that are the basis for a strong and effective ECCAS.
The establishment of the network of women mediators in Central Africa is helping to strengthen women’s participation in peace processes. This network will provide a voice for women and raise awareness among policy and decision makers to accelerate the implementation of UN Resolution 1325.
Kapinga Yvette Nganda is the Commissioner, Gender, Human and Social Development, Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS/CEEAC).