1. Executive Summary
The second phase of the project “Bolstering Judicial and Social Accountability processes in the Central African Republic (CAR)” was implemented in Boda and Bangui, from February 19th, 2017 to August 31st 2018, by Search for Common Ground (Search) and the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI). The goal of the project was to support rule of law and peacebuilding in CAR through judicial and social accountability. Its objectives were to 1) increase citizens’ access to the formal justice sector; 2) improve the formal justice sector’s capacity to meet the needs of citizens; and 3) support citizen and civil society engagement in dispute resolution processes across religious and community identity lines. The project was implemented in Bangui and Boda.
The objective of this evaluation is to assess the relevance, effectiveness, impact and sustainability of the project, in order to highlight recommendations for the future. To achieve this objective, a mixed methodology was used, allowing on the one hand a qualitative analysis through 15 Key Individual Interviews (KII) and 4 Focus Group Discussions (FGD), and on the other hand a quantitative analysis through a survey with 362 households.
Limitations of this evaluation include the fact that no pilot test could be done and that coordination with the team in the field was very limited during the data collection. Besides, due to resurgence of violence in Bangui, the survey could not be conducted in the 3rd district of Bangui, a majority Muslim area, and the results may have been impacted by increased insecurity. Some interviews were also canceled due to the unavailability of the interviewees. Finally the absence of baseline made the evaluation of some indicators difficult.
The project was overall very relevant to the context. The vast majority of stakeholders interviewed consider that the project was pertinent to the needs of their country and to their own needs. The improvement of the quality of the judicial system through the strengthening of capacities and accountability created most expectations, yet it was also where most skepticism was found. In this regard, it would have been also relevant to address the issue of corruption and transparency.
The expected results and objectives of the project were partially achieved. While there was overall satisfaction with all the activities of the project, some did not achieve their initial target. In particular, only 46 cases were reported to ABA ROLI’s legal mobile aid clinics since February 2017 instead of the 500 expected. Only 1 out of 3 planned workshops about the standardization of documents was organized, and only 8 out of 56 planned oversight missions were carried out. Nonetheless, those activities were still appreciated, in particular the oversight missions, which supported accountability in the justice system. The strengthening of capacity of the judicial staff, through the development of new curricula was also a successful activity, the effects of which should be seen in the near future. Overall, the project supported increased access to justice and higher quality of the system but while the activities were promising, more is still expected in those areas, especially as the idea that bad practices and corruption persist is still widespread, affecting citizens’ trust in the justice system.
It is thus very important to raise awareness among the population on justice. In this regard, the radio shows were successful in informing a large number of listeners about the functioning of the justice system. However, the project provide sufficient information about the role of the Special Penal Court (CPS), chiefly because the court was not operational until after the end of the project. Furthermore, the radio programming did not reach women to the same extent, and coverage did not reach Boda, as national radios do not broadcast in this city. Yet those population groups are less likely to be well informed about justice and, in Boda, the lack of access to justice was cited as the main reason for citizens to resort to violence. Awareness sessions conducted directly in the targeted cities however were more inclusive and permitted reaching out to key targets in the communities and creating dialogue opportunities between citizens and judicial staff. The community-led mediation and solidarity events were very successful in fostering collaboration across divided lines in both cities, and participants are overall more willing and ready to collaborate with others and are engaging in peacebuilding.
Overall, the project contributed to a positive change in the rule of law and peacebuilding even if partially. In terms of justice, a majority of respondents (61.9%) consider that judicial staff do their job well, but there is still a certain number who do not trust the system because of widespread corruption. With regards to peacebuilding, people cited changes to their behavior, feeling greater solidarity, more respectful, and more aware of their commonalities with others. However, here again the trust in others is still fragile, especially in Bangui. Indeed, the project seems to have had more impact in Boda where participants confirmed that there was a return of peace and free movement of population. In Bangui, not only is the population slightly less ready to collaborate and less engaged in peaceful dispute resolution, but violence and insecurity are also more prevalent. The results can also be attributed to the episodes of violence that took place in Bangui in 2018, and notably during the data collection.
Despite the absence of an exit strategy, there are opportunities for long term changes as the project was well anchored to existing structures, empowering civil society organizations through the CSN and AFPC, and strengthening capacities in the judicial system, through the National School for Administration and Magistrate (ENAM) and the Inspector General of Judicial Services (IGSJ). However the achievements of this project are still fragile and further support needs be provided to the justice system and to peacebuilding efforts.
For Aba Roli
Organize as soon as possible a follow-up session with participants trained on the documentation of human rights. In the medium term, develop a tool or guide to share with participants.
In the short-term, follow-up on first interviews conducted with victims by the mobile legal aid clinic. In the medium term, assess more thoroughly the impact of the mobile legal aid clinic and the reasons for the lack of effectiveness during this phase of the project.
Focus efforts on activities that foster accountability of judicial actors and tackle the issue of corruption. Most urgently, work with judicial institutions toward the establishment of transparency measures.
In the short term, organize restitution workshops in Bangui to share the results of the conflict scan. In the future, organize conflict scans more regularly, so that the findings can inform the implementation strategy.
Continue to support the CSN to increase its capacity to play a significant role in social cohesion and peacebuilding.
In Bangui, maintain efforts to foster social cohesion and trust across dividing lines, through community and participatory theatre for change events and the broadcast of messages of peace and tolerance through the radio.
Support the development of local radios in Boda or other cities were national radio stations are not broadcast.
In Boda, continue to inform citizens on the judicial process and ensure a continuous dialogue between judicial institutions and citizens For judicial institutions • With the support of the reference guide develop by ABA ROLI, continue and extend the oversight missions.
Ensure the training of ENAM students in 2019 by staff and evaluate the effectiveness of the curricula.
Maintain the coordination between different actors in the judicial sector, for instance through the organization of annual thematic workshops.
Guarantee the sharing of information with citizens through public disclosure of all information and ensure continued dialogue with citizens.
For AFPC and the CSN
For the AFPC, leverage the knowledge acquired in Search’s training and the impact of former radios shows to organize further radio activities, in French and in Sango, focusing on the mandate of the CPS.
For the CSN, continue to organize dialogues, such as educational talks, that bring together members of the CPS and citizens to exchange on the role of the Court and citizens’ expectations.
Recommendations for future programs for both Search and ABA ROLI
For future projects, plan for an exit strategy and identify potential for sustainability from the design phase of the project.
Strengthen communication and complementarity between implementing partners.
Extend the work of this project to more remote areas where access to justice is more complicated and where peace is still fragile.
Make more effort to include women in the different activities organized with judicial institutions and civil society organizations. In this regard, continue to organize community level events.
Do an assessment on the role of women both in conflict resolution and in the justice sector to understand barriers to engaging with women and to identify strategies to better involve them.
Develop programs that target the problem of corruption within judicial institutions, foster accountability of justice staff and encourage public trust in the justice system.
Include a component which focuses on fostering communication between community representatives and judicial authorities.
Organize community-based mediation and solidarity events within communities with high numbers of Internally Displaced Persons.