On Wednesday, March 16th, International Perspective organised its first event. We had the honour to invite Yannick Weyns to the University of Antwerp for a lecture on the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR). We were happy to welcome a large crowd of fifty attendees and even happier to see they learnt a lot about the topic at hand. (Featured Image © Natasja Van Looveren)
Weyns has been working as a researcher at the International Peace Information Service (IPIS) for two years. His task is to map and assess the control of armed groups over mineral production and trade in conflict areas. IPIS is an independent research institute that provides tailor-made information and analysis in order to promote and support peace, sustainable development and human rights with a main focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.
In this context, Weyns recently visited the CAR for research purposes. Other assignments have brought him to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Sudan. Weyns is an expert on peacebuilding, human rights and children’s rights and has worked before as a human rights officer at the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). Currently he is also teaching human rights and children’s rights at the University of Antwerp. Weyns might be a relatively young researcher, but he definitely does not lack knowledge on the topics at hand.
In his lecture for IP, Weyns discussed the long history of violent conflict in the CAR. After obtaining independence from France, the CAR witnessed a very unstable period with five coups. The current crisis in the CAR has been dragging on since 2012. In March 2013 President François Bozizé (2003-2013) was ousted from power by the Seleka, an alliance of (mostly) Islamic rebel groups. In reaction to the instalment of the Seleka administration under the leadership of Michel Djotodia (2013-2014), the CAR saw the rise of the Christian Anti-Balaka militias. These groups plunged into violence, to such an extent that the French government warned that the CAR was “on the verge of genocide”.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2149 established the United Nation Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA, from its French acronym). However, MINUSCA is facing some severe challenges. The 694 sexual abuse allegations will not help to enhance popular faith and support for the mission. Will this peacekeeping mission be successful? To know more about the MINUSCA mission, or the crisis in the Central African Republic, we have uploaded a video of the lecture itself. Those that were unable to attend, may watch it bellow. Do note that you did miss out on our (delicious) reception and a very interesting round of Questions&Answers!
Attendees were very enthusiastic about Weyns’ lecture and the feedback they gave us afterwards further stressed this. Foremost, it was well-appreciated that IP had picked a topic that lacks adequate media coverage. The choice for Weyns as a speaker was also a strong plus. One attendee even hailed that “he wasn’t some professor who studied the theory and thinks he knows the situation there as he has read books, searched the internet and talked to other ‘connaisseurs’. This speaker actually went to the [CAR] for a long time, talked to the different rebels and visited the diamond mines.” Other attendees thought of Weyns as “young and inspiring person” with whom they could identify themselves with.
Given the success of this first activity, we are happy to announce that more events are to be organised. We will provide you with more opportunities to learn about the world of international affairs, while also commencing activities for the sake of furthering your professional career. More information to follow soon!