5 March 2018

Central African Republic: Soccer Uniting Foes in War-Ravaged Country

Bangui — FOOTBALL, aptly called the beautiful game, is hailed as the world's most powerful unifier.

Its magic to bridge divides has been experienced in the war-torn Central African Republic (CAR), in the form of a local league cup final in the town of Bambari in the southern prefecture (administrative jurisdiction), bordering the equally restive Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

An estimated 5 000 supporters thronged the municipal stadium to watch local finalists Sica Sport of Bambari and Ippy.

The atmosphere of the match was electric and saw Sica Sport emerge victorious in a 3-0 outcome.

During the opening ceremony, Abel Matchipata, the Mayor of Bambari, and International Office of Migration (IOM) Programme Officer, Giacomo Gabbrielli, highlighted the importance of sports as a means to promote peace and non-violence.

The values were reaffirmed with a theatrical presentation during the half-time break on the risks related to the illegal circulation of arms, and their role in escalating conflicts rather than solving individual and community disputes.

"It was a beautiful event and a great opportunity to raise awareness about peaceful resolutions to conflict and IOM's work in Bambari," said IOM's Gabbrielli.

"The fans were terrific and I believe they also enjoyed the half-time play on the detrimental role of illegal arms."

The initiative was also used to promote IOM's work in Bambari.

It opened its Bambari sub-office in December 2017.

Through its Community Violence Reduction project, it aims to tackle the security situation through the reintegration of armed group members who are ineligible for the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme.

CAR is experiencing violence between Christian extremists and Muslim radicals.

The population of displaced people reached 600 000 last year, representing a 50 percent increase in 12 months.

Central African Republic

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