Overheard in Bangui

(Speakers’ names have been changed out of concern for their safety)

Paul: “We’ve been through many insurrections, but this is another twist. Even we are asking questions. Will this work out? That’s the big question. Today we’re okay, tomorrow we’re scared. It’s a question of dialogue, because there are two parties, the Seleka and the Anti-balaka. If there isn’t dialogue, it will get worse. What really takes time is disarmament. We don’t feel it yet. There are patrols, but it doesn’t go like it should. One sign, it’s that the refugees don’t want to return home. With the weapons circulating, there is too much fear. We can’t say that things will get better, even if we wish it.

“It’s become a question between Christians and Muslims, and that requires working from the heart, forgiveness, patience, so that there is no more hate.

“I admire the work of the pastor, the bishop, and even the Imam. Their outreach work is very admirable. We need that forgiveness. The radio says it too, it’s their slogan. We have to bring people to love each other again. That motivates the important people too, the neighborhood leaders.”

Catherine: “It will take a Mandela to get us out of this crisis and this hate.”

Grace: “But there are Mandelas in every village. A huge reconciliation won’t do anything. What we need is to find and support all those Mandelas in the villages.”

Eric: “So how are we going to rebuild?

Vanessa: “For now, we smell the smoke of peace, but we don’t see the flames yet! We will have to all come together and talk it over. Everyone has rights and responsibilities.”

Théophile: “Talk about what? We just have to say to those who don’t respect the law – this is my space, that is your space.”

Eric: “And how will we punish those who don’t respect the law?”

Théophile: “We will bring justice. We will explain it to them and educate them to respect the law, without guns. They have to understand that here is my space, there is your space. Respect things, people, without trampling on the rights of others.”