News / Africa

Bangui Work Program Targets Potential Troublemakers

Muslims with their belongings are seen before they are escorted by French peacekeepers from their homes in Bangui, Central African Republic, April 27, 2014
Muslims with their belongings are seen before they are escorted by French peacekeepers from their homes in Bangui, Central African Republic, April 27, 2014
Nick Long
Aid donors have come up with a plan to put young people back to work in the capital of the Central African Republic, Bangui - at least for a few weeks.  C.A.R. authorities say they hope this will keep restive youths out of trouble and enable them to restart their own businesses.  

This week donors announced plans to spend around $31 million on public works programs that would rapidly rotate job opportunities among Bangui’s unemployed.

The private companies bidding to work on these projects will have to meet some unusual conditions: They will have to pay their unskilled employees about twice as much as usual - $6 a day instead of $3 - and they will have to limit each unskilled worker’s contract to just 45 days.

Eric Levron of the United Nations development agency (UNDP) said in a VOA interview that the idea is to increase employee turnover, to give more people a share of the work and income.   

"This high turnover condition is new in the sense that donors - in this case, the French Development Agency [AFD], the World Bank, the European Union and UNDP - have not previously insisted on such conditions in dealing with the private sector," said Levron.

At a meeting this week between donors and the government, a spokesman for the C.A.R.’s public works agency, Diogene Gon, made no secret of the fact that they are hoping such public works programs will keep potential troublemakers out of mischief.

"The objective is to put a lot of young people to work, so they will be tired and sleep well at night and not do 'stupid things,'"said Gon.

Since last December, when violence escalated between the anti-Balaka and ex-Seleka militias, thousands of homes and shops in Bangui have been looted, many have been destroyed by mobs, more than a thousand inhabitants have been killed and most of the Muslim population has fled.

The $31 million from international donors over the next four years will support program to dig drainage ditches, unblock sewers and repair roads.  This is only part of the aid these donors will spending on Bangui’s infrastructure by 2017, but other improvements will not focus on jobs programs.

A few hundred people work on those kinds of projects in Bangui at the moment.  In the next few weeks their number will rise to several thousand.

One ditch-digger who is on the job already is Cedric Onduluka.  He took a break to talk to VOA this morning.

"It’s good news that there will be more of this kind of work. This will be a great relief to young people.  When they have work they won’t be tempted to break into people’s houses and loot and steal," said Onduluka.

The French development agency says no target number has been set for the manual-labor team.  They could employ a large part of Bangui’s population - estimated to be close to one million, depending on how frequently the work is rotated among the same people.

Most contracts are likely to last about a month.  One aid organization that has been running labor-intensive or so-called "cash for work" programs in Bangui is the French technical agency ACTED.  Its boss in Bangui is Frederic Linardon.  

'In my experience, many young people in Bangui who work for $5 or $6 a day can save enough money in a month to relaunch the kind of activity they had before the crisis - as street vendors, for example," said Linardon.

So far all the "cash-for-work" jobs will be in Bangui, but the C.A.R. public works agency says future programs will extend outside the capital, at first in southwestern parts of the country, when security conditions permit.

C.A.R. governments have traditionally focused resources on the capital to the exclusion of the rest of the country, and aid agencies and international NGOs currently have most of their key staff in the capital - factors that could also weight development spending towards Bangui.

"Too much of the aid the Central African Republic receives does not reach outside Bangui.  Too much of everything is concentrated on the capital," he said.

The French development agency’s manager in Bangui, Julian Boglietto, says that he is looking to set up some pilot projects offering cash for work in agriculture, which he says might show other donors what is possible.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs