Since the change in power, diplomats in the region and in the international community have pushed for rapid presidential elections. This is a mistake. In the fighting, voter registries (both paper and electronic) have been destroyed. Re-establishing them will be a massive undertaking that risks exacerbating the tensions around nationality described above. It will consume scarce resources when necessary emergency humanitarian aid is underfunded.
To satisfy the widespread desire for democracy (Bozizé’s electioneering made Central Africans very unhappy), it would be better to start with local elections, which have not been held in the CAR for decades – Préfets and their adjuncts have been appointed by the president, and chefs de village have assumed their roles through a variety of means, such as informal elections — often involving only men — and heredity. These elections would lay a foundation for more substantive national elections, and might also help establish trust in communities riven by looting and brutality.
Also immediately valuable: more money. The levels of violence got as bad as they did in part due to the weak economy and the piling-up of arrears in civil servant salaries, especially over the second half of 2013. Market purchases and bar sociality cultivate a day-to-day ‘getting along’ no less real for being bred of practical necessity, and the drying up of money removed any such possibilities for social lubrication. An injection of cash, such as by paying those salaries, would do much more for people’s well-being and the establishment of security than a strictly ‘humanitarian’ distribution.
The CAR, an improbable country on a variety of levels, has never had a tightly-woven social fabric. It’s always been more of a loose netting that has become dangerously frayed over the last few years. But it can be mended, and these small-scale processes, plus technocratic governance from President Samba-Panza, are good ways to start.
In general, I find Louisa one of today’s most interesting thinkers on power and governance in weak states. Keep an eye out for her work, and follow her on Twitter.