Above Ambassador Sanders, FEEEDS CEO, Receives Africa Advocay I mpact Award
Testimony before the SubCommittte on Africa and Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations
by *Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders (ret), CEO FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative, May 1, 2014
Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member, and Members of the Committee, I want to thank you for including me on this panel on the situation in the Central Africa Republic (CAR), and issue that I am following very closely. I have lived in and work on Central African regional issues both when I was a Director for Africa at the National Security Council and also when I was U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Congo. The latter time was when former CAR President Bozizé first came to power; this was also a time of great conflict and human suffering in CAR. The question the Committee is seeking views on today, however, is whether or not the Central African Republic is already in the throes of a pre-genocide atmosphere or already embroiled in genocide. My remarks will address this and other elements that might be important to consider as we work together as the international community to try to stem the tide of violence and human suffering in CAR.
I first want to say something about the sheer devastation of the humanitarian crisis, having been up on the border area many times between Central Africa Republic (CAR) and Republic of Congo in years past, and in fact there remain refugees there from earlier CAR conflicts. For more than a decade instability has reigned in CAR caused by internal issues which have never been fully resolved – socially, politically, and ethnically – keeping the country environment unstable, and the people of the CAR at the mercy of the next wave of violence. Because of the continued instability and not being on the radar screen of the international community for more than a decade until the rise of the Seleka in December 2012, the events since then have set in motion two things: revenge killing by the anti-balaka Christian groups, which spawned into sectarian violence.
In addition over the last several days we are hearing unconfirmed reports of what I have been calling “reverse revenge killings” reportedly from armed Muslim militias or former Seleka running raids from Muslim enclaves in the North into nearby towns such as attacking two days ago a hospital, and killing Christians, and workers with Medicine San Frontier, near the border with Chad. These enclaves only exist because Muslims have been forced to run from sectarian violence directed at them by the anti-Balaka Christian groups. Anti-balaka groups also are preventing those Christians who want to live in peace with their Muslim neighbors from doing so.
Therefore, what we have, as you know, are the following:
- Sectarian violence;Segregated country along Christian-Muslim lines;
- Large numbers of displaced person, afraid and facing hunger
- Attacks on convoys evacuating people of either religious groups
- Looming potential for famine and further spread of disease as neither planting or harvesting season has or will take place in the violent environment
- Continued impunity of current and past leaders and perpetrators of violence and crimes against civilians, including former Seleka leader Djtodia, former president Bozize, and anti-Balaka Christian leaders as well as Muslim leaders who are perpetrating crimes against humanity
These are elements that could possibly lead down the road to something we have not seen before: A two-way genocide as each group, Muslim and Christians, impose horrendous revenge and “reverse revenge” killing upon each other.
If we allow this to happen this will be a new challenge for the country and international community on top of the already critical humanitarian crisis with thousands of internally displaced persons (IDP’s) already on the umbrella of the airport as it is the only place they feel remotely safe.
Thus, what can be suggested as the way forward? I recognize that the Administration is working full time on the humanitarian crisis with internally displaced person, but other donors also need to step up and fulfill pledges to provide assistance. The 2,000 French troops and the 5,000 African Union troops of MISCA as well as the 150 EU troops who have just arrived should all be commended, but also we need to double down on ensuring that their troops are not seen to support one religious group over another.
Having served in government for many years, I also recognize the time line needed to get the full complement of the 12,000-person UN Peace Keeping Mission in by September 2014 and that every effort is being made to advance this. But, the reality may get ahead of their arrival – and, we can see this now if we are entering a new phase of reverse revenge killings by Muslim militia. We need to consider asking the UN to also request police units from contributing countries to be added to the UN force so that areas were violence have ebbed and flowed can move from fragile stability to more permanent communities of stability.
Thus, as we balance this triplex of sectarian violence/revenge killings, the IDP humanitarian crisis, and looming famine we may need to jump now to concurrently work with the transition government to setup Peace Commission in rural areas; current religious enclaves; and, in Bangui because without a release valve for people to vent and articulate both their fear and hatred; stem their desire to revenge kill for atrocities done to them or their families, and address the overall environment of crimes against humanity we are likely at the beginning of seeing the current de facto segregation of CAR move into something worse - such as a two-way genocide the likes of which we have not seen before. The potential is there.
In general peace or reconciliation commissions such as in Sierra Leone, South Africa, and even the communal ones in Rwanda began in after peace – or at least fragile stability - had been restored, or in the case of South Africa when apartheid had been abolished. I am not sure we can wait for that phase in CAR. The triplex of issues we see today may prohibit reaching an end to violence and atrocities unless some release value for the hatred and disregard for humanity by the militia groups on both sides is addressed concurrently in the present environment. I recognize that many NGO groups are working to assist with workshops and reconciliation programs. But, what I am suggesting is also looking at what traditional methods of reconciliation are used in village communities and among various CAR ethnic groups, along the lines of the framework of what Rwanda used - local traditional solution to local traditional healing. This is the only way that sustainable peace can be maintained -- if each community can find a way to forgive each other. Of course the full healing process will take generations, but we have to start some where. In addition, I go back to the issue of impunity of leadership being addressed and using institutions like the International Criminal Court (ICC) to do so as a beginning. If the local population cannot see that leaders are brought to justice how can we expect them to have faith in peace and reconciliation efforts on the ground, or for those to be sustainable.
Although this is not directly part of the Committee’s question today, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this issue having served as U.S. Ambassador also in Nigeria when the resurgence of Boko Haram happened. Events like we see in CAR, although we might think it cannot get worse, it can. They can spirally even more out of control so quickly, so fast. Thus, I think we need to be mindful that there is the potential for untoward groups to come into CAR and take advantage of the environment and the segregated environment of Muslims and Christians – not only fueling more hatred and violence, but also bringing with them more violent method such as terrorist tactics. I am specifically thinking of fundamentalist groups who could come in to provide Al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist training to help advance the mission of revenge and reverse revenge killings. This could happen on either side of the religious divide, not just within the Muslim segregated enclaves but also within segregated Christian segregated communities that now exist since the negative atmosphere of hatred and violent pay-back is the order of the day. We need to pay attention to this and seek to work as much as possible within these enclaves to not only distribute much-needed food, but find ways with these groups to create the space for the revenge killings to end on both sides.
Again, I want to thank the Subcommittee for allowing me to share these views, and I stand ready to answer any of your questions
*revised and extended remarks
FEEEDS CEO, Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders Appointed Chairperson of U.S. Export-Import Bank’s Advisory Committee on Africa, Other Key Appointments: On USTR’s Trade Advisory Committee for Africa, and, Global Advisor for the African Growth and Opportunity (AGOA) Civil Society Network
Washington, DC – FEEEDS CEO Ambassador (Dr.) Robin Renee Sanders was also appointed April 30, 2014, as Chairperson of the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s Sub-Saharan Africa Advisory Committee (SSAC) for the upcoming term. In his letter of appointment, EXIM-Bank Chairman and President Fred Hochberg noted the importance of the Committee’s and Dr. Sanders’ effort to support President Obama’s National Export Initiative which fuels the United States efforts to increase U.S. exports to Africa. The Committee’s work will also help President Obama’s goal of doubling overall U.S. exports by the end of 2014.
In other news, United States Trade Representative, Michael Froman, recently appointed Dr. Sanders to be a member of the U.S. Trade Advisory Committee for Africa (TACA), noting that the TACA serves an important function of providing policy advice to the U.S. Trade Representative on issues involving trade and development in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the letter of appointment, Ambassador Sander’s experience and perspective on African trade and development were noted as key aspects which will make her a valuable contribution to U.S. trade policy toward Africa.
Sanders will also speak at the upcoming May 2014 Miami Conference on US-Africa trade in her capacity as one of the new Global Advisor for the African Growth and Opportunity Civil Society Network. At the event, Sanders will discuss Africa regional integration issues and their impact on Africa’s economic growth and development at the global conference in Miami, May 21-23, 2014.
FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative & Operation HOPE Co-Host Key 2014 World Bank Civil Society Forum on New Technologies & Financial Literacy Tools for Global At-Risk Communities
Washington, DC, April 8, 2014 - The FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative and Operation HOPE will co-host a Civil Society Workshop on Saturday, April 12, 2014, from 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm under the auspices of the World Bank’s 2014 Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C. The joint session, entitled “Agile Innovation and Technology: Lessons From the Developing World,” is FEEEDS first co-hosting opportunity alongside the world renown NGO Operation HOPE, which leads the way on developing and implementing financial literacy programs and tools for at-risk communities world-wide.
The FEEEDS-Operation Hope session will bring together leading subject matter experts to highlight new technologies, which FEEEDS CEO Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders calls “agile,” and unique programs being used to address education and poverty, while Operation HOPE will highlight its ground-breaking financial literacy projects and tools from business in a box, to banking on our future. Co-Host, FEEEDS CEO Ambassador Robin Sanders, and Operation Hope Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Jena Roscoe, will also provide key presentations on the role that young people can play in changing the world’s wealth inequalities. Ambassador Sanders will kick off the session with a presentation examining Africa’s Youth Bulge as an asset to economic development for the region, while Ms. Roscoe will present the latest financial literacy tools that Operation HOPE has launched to encourage financial well-being for young people, encourage entrepreneurship, particularly its 5117 project with the goal of changing the financial lives of 5 million at-risk youth.
Other speakers will highlight ways to better address development, best practices to overcome conflict, and the elements of leadership that are vital for progress in the 21st Century. This workshop, conducted under the auspices of the World Bank 2014 Spring meetings, is inspired by the work that all of the committed activists who focus on development and making the world a more inclusive place for everyone, particularly the next generation.
Other panelists include Bill Knapp, Manager African Technologies in Education – a FEEEDS Strategic Partner, Patricia McCants, Founder, African Diaspora Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Ditu Kasuyi, UFSC International, Advisory Board Chair & International President Emeritus, and James H. Parks, Founder, The Parksonian Institute & Advisor, SHADOKA.
The FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative focus on food security, education, environment, economic development, and self-help projects (The FEEEDS pillars), particularly in Africa, and also provides business solutions in this area. It supports a range of agricultural, educational, and affordable housing projects, and also provides business solutions in these areas. For more on FEEEDS go to http://www.ambassadorrobinreneesanders.com, or www.blogitrrs.blogspot.com
Operation HOPE hosts an annual Global Financial Dignity Summit, http://summit.operationhope.org in November and welcomes global citizens focused on financial inclusion, dignity, and capability initiatives to attend. To learn more about Operation HOPE Initiatives, please review our website: https://www.opertaionhope.org/Global-Initiatives
CEO FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative, Ambassador Robin Sanders,
Inducted into the American Academy of Diplomacy
Washington, DC – FEEEDS CEO, Ambassador (Dr.) Robin Renee Sanders was recently inducted into the prestigious American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD). The Academy’s mission is to support and strengthen U.S. diplomacy and enhance the public appreciation of its critical role in advancing America’s national interest.
As an inductee of AAD, Ambassador Sanders was honored for “having served the President and People of the United States with Distinction in the Practice of Diplomacy.” Members of the Academy are composed of persons who have had distinguished careers in diplomacy or have made notable contributions to American foreign policy in other ways. In response to this honor, Ambassador Sanders noted she would continue to contribute to diplomacy and to building positive relationships between the people of the U.S. and the global community as part of her FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative.
The Academy, founded in 1983, is an independent, non-profit association of former ambassadors and senior level government officials whose mission is to strengthen American diplomacy. AAD represents a wealth of talent and experience in the practice of American foreign policy. Its goals, supports programs that help diplomats respond to a world undergoing change, highlights past achievements and future opportunities for U.S. diplomacy.
Ambassador Sanders, CEO FEEEDS Receives Advocacy Impact Award from African Leadership
Washington, D.C. March 2, 2014 – The London-based African Leadership Magazine which focus on identifying and recognizing key leaders in the Diaspora and in Africa who work to advance the positive development, economic, and political goals of the African Continent, honored several leaders at its hallmark Washington, D.C. event. Among those honored was FEEEDS CEO, Ambassador (Dr.) Robin Renee Sanders for her commitment, advocacy, and work with small and medium size entrepreneurs (SMEs) in Africa, Sanders, who previously was the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, and the Republic of Congo has long worked throughout her U.S. diplomatic career and now in the private sector on addressing key economic issues in Africa.
Sanders, who received the Africa Advocacy Impact Award was honored along with several others that included, Nigeria’ Rivers State Commissioner for the Private Sector, William Essien of First Capital Plus Ghana, and A. V. Felix Managing Director and CEO of Energia Limited. Sierra Leone’s President Dr. Ernest Koroma was honored with the Africa Leadership Award.
In her remarks in accepting the award, Ambassador Sanders highlighted that she had committed her life to believing in Africa’s development and forward progress despite the challenges, and was always an “Africa-optimist,” way before it became en vogue to do so over the last few years. She noted her current work with SMEs, affordable housing and in food security and the environment – key elements of her FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative – and stressed that leadership was about vision, transparency, flexibility, implementation, and most of all humility. Dr. Sanders also received congratulations for receiving the award noting Nigeria's appreciation for her past work and diplomatic service during her tenure in Nigeria from Nigeria's Ambassador to the United States, Professor Ade Adefuye.