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Time to put transparency on Central Africa’s agenda

The National Transitional Council of Central African Republic and the international community must demand that the country's new president, Catherine Samba-Panza, pursue transparency, good governance and integrity as priorities.

After the resignation of Michel Djotodia, leader of the rebel group Seleka that seized power in March 2013, the National Transitional Council elected Catherine Samba-Panza as the new president early this week. Now is the perfect opportunity for Central African Republic to make a strong and lasting move against corruption. It can either return to the inertia of the instability or build a stable future. Political instability and war have made ​​this country one of the poorest in the world. CAR ranks 180 out of 187 countries according to the Human Development Index.

Even if there is a democratic solution to the conflict, transparency in government affairs should be mainstreamed to build trust to overcome the difficulties hindering development since independence. Reconciliation and democratic measures will require transparency to be sustainable and to guarantee equitable resource distribution.

CAR is rich in diamonds and gold with smaller artisanal miners exploiting most of the minerals. Illegal exploitation, exports across porous borders and corruption are reducing the states’ revenues.

Transparency International recently attended a meeting organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in N'Djamena which addressed precisely this issue: the establishment of anti-corruption measures in post-conflict countries. The first and most important recommendation was that the anti-corruption mechanisms should be implemented in the process of peace negotiation, during the transition and of course once a government has been democratically elected.

There is a risk that the drift toward religious conflict and the urgent need for national reconciliation will dominate discussion, overshadowing the fact that bad governance is the key driver of this conflict and should be addressed as soon as possible.

A wake-up call for the international community

For years mediation attempts and peace-keeping operations from CEMAC (the monetary and economic community of Central Africa), the ECCAS (Economic Community of Central African States) or the UN have failed. The different interests of the neighbouring countries and the spill-over of violence from these parts have not allowed for a strictly democratic resolution of the conflict. This should be a wake-up call for countries in the region to put in place transparency mechanisms that allow the wealth to reach the whole population.

Meanwhile, the international community, given the severity of conflicts, generally tends to settle for temporary solutions and not lasting ones. The resolution of the conflict in Central African Republic should not divert the international community’s attention from the low performance in terms of transparency and the fight against corruption in this region according to the 2013 Corruption Perception Index or the Ibrahim Index of African Governance.

Need for real changes

The confluence of important natural resources, long-lived regimes and geographic size of this region are drivers for chronic political instability and poverty. For Transparency International, a critical reason for the lack of success reaching Millennium Development Goals is weak governance and the corruption that follows. We call on the UN to make governance a priority for post-2015 development.

It's time for real change, it’s time for real transparency. Any leader should make this a priority and a leading conflict-prevention strategy – not only for Central African Republic, but for the Central Africa region as a whole.

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