Some Impressions from a (first) Tour Through the Central African Republic – report, 28 November-6 December 2012
by Mirjam de Bruijn, Inge Butter, Souleymane Abdoulaye Adoum, Adamou Amadou.
Mobility and migration
In this research we will concentrate on internal mobility within the CEMAC zone. Intercontinental migration seems to be of less importance for the Mbororo (Fulani) and Arabs, than for migrants from Cameroon as was shown by our findings in Anglophone Cameroon; This ties in with the perception of CAR, Chad, North-Eastern Cameroon as a non-border area. The notion of a mobile community, (i.e. a group of people/community living in a wide (geographical) space, as a social network, in which the role of communication of various kinds is very important), is very much applicable to the Arab Misirie, and to the Mbororo. The eruptions of violence since 2005 might be for them another episode in a long history of mobility and navigation in space both for economic and political reasons
Diamonds and gold
The CAR territory is full of diamonds. In the north big diamonds can be found. This area is on and off controlled by the various rebel groups that live off the diamonds (just like the big dealers who are apparently linked to the rebels and do business with them (check). In the south-west through where we travelled the diamonds are much smaller, but the region is relatively calm so there are many people working in the diamonds. These small sparkling pieces of stone that resemble glass are an important reason for people to be in this area and they come from all corners of Africa: we met a young man on the ferry that helped us to cross the river just after Buda, Da Fadi, he comes from Ayoun and knows one of our acquaintances there, who appears to be his uncle. He carries a bag with a lot of money in it, probably more than a few million. He presents himself as a collecteur, and is part of a business that he shares with his brother. He came to CAR three years ago and after having acted as an assistant he can now operate on his own and drives through the region with his motorbike, together with another young man from the same company (the motorbike was also from that company) to collect diamonds. He has been able to construct two houses in Nouaktchott and he sends money to the family.
The diamond pits are deep and in the forest. The tress land has to be cleared before they can start the exploitation of diamonds. Large parts of the forests have already disappeared. A reason for USAID to start a project in the region to protect the forest and promote sustainable mining. Whether that is possible is a big question, there are too many pits and who will be able to plant trees back? Again an investment… The mayor of Sassile, a village where we spent the night, is also a miner and from his first earned money he was able to buy a car. He is digging…. Many young men from Chad, CAR and also Cameroon work in the pitts, they work for 2000 FCFA a day to dig towards the precious soils where the diamonds lay hidden. When they find something it is up to the proprietor to decide how much of a bonus his workers will receive.
CAR and Chad have a completely different experience with violence. The open violence that threatens people in their everyday life in CAR in all regions is informing feelings of fear and anger. Open expression of this fear is possible as long as it is directed against the so-called rebels or the bandits, but if it is against the State and its organisations (police, military) it is a different issue. The State again as a rhizome state (cf. De Bruijn 2008), but different from Chad the rhizomes are of a mangrove (very visible).
Two weeks after we left the rebel groups from the North approached Bangui, asking President Bozize to step down. We called our friends in Bangui who were afraid for a repetition of the situation in 2003 when Patasse (the former president) was chased by Bozize and his (Chadian) troops. Being a rebel or a leader is just a matter of sides.
Bruijn, M.E. de, 2008, The Impossiblity of Civil Organisations in Post-war Chad. In: A. Bellagamba & G. Klute, Besides the State, Rudiger Koppe Verlag