On last 27 February, they signed at the headquarters of the Community of Sant'Egidio in Rome an appeal to the people of the Central African Republic and to the international community for national reconciliation and the support for the process of political and institutional reconstruction, signed by the major personalities of the African country, including four former prime ministers, the vice president of the transitional parliament and the president of the Committee for the "National Forum of Bangui". The signing of the pre-election agreement, defined by Andrea Riccardi as "a sign of hope for all", was greeted with satisfaction by the neighbouring countries.
We asked Mauro Garofalo, of the Community of Sant'Egidio, who has followed all the steps in the process that led to the signing of the document, why this agreement represents an important milestone for the peace and stability of the Central African Republic and of the entire region
What is the current situation in the Central African Republic?
"The Central African Republic, for two years, has gone through a particularly difficult time due to the instability and widespread violence. The coup of March 2013 plunged the country into a serious situation, and even today the international community strives to support the country. Out of a population that has a little less than 5 million inhabitants, more than 400,000 of these are refugees in neighbouring countries while one million people live in the condition of IDPs (Internal Displaced Persons).
The transition desired by the international community to take the Central African Republic to the election nears its end, the presidential election will have to give a president to the country by August 2015. Unfortunately, military groups (Seleka, anti-Balaka and others) operate in many areas, prevent the control of the territory and cause ongoing violence".
What will happen in Central Africa with the signing of the pre-election agreement?
"The meeting of Sant'Egidio is an important step towards reconciliation. The presence among the delegates of the greatest exponents of the main parties is an unprecedented event. In fact, the parties will have to express the country's leadership, and the election campaign has already begun. The Rome Appeal/Declaration is intended to establish, between the competing parties, an agreement for a peaceful and democratic development of elections and it launches the idea of joint work, even after the elections, in the democratic respect between winners and losers. The joint document wanted to take the form of a patriotic appeal to the people of Central Africa, by which the politicians present (including four former prime ministers) undertake to put politics at the centre of the life of the country, so that the Central African Republic may be reborn in harmony and democracy".
Why is this agreement important not only for the Central African Republic but also for the whole region?
"The Central African Republic, with its instability and the presence of cross-border armed groups, is a serious problem for the entire region. The very presence of tens of thousands of refugees in neighbouring countries constitutes a humanitarian emergency very difficult to manage. The Central African Republic is at the centre of a problematic scenario, the presence of Boko Haram in Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, the clashes in South Sudan, to which we may add the presence in the east of the LRA (Lord Resistance Army) guerrillas, tell us clearly that the return to stability will be crucial for the whole area, as repeatedly stated by the governments of the neighbouring countries and the international community.
For too long, in fact, the Central African Republic was considered a safe haven for all types of guerrilla warfare, and the time has come for strong and legitimate institutions to gradually regain control of the country".