Can a TV show reconcile CAR's Muslims and Christians?

Filming in the streets of downtown Bangui. Photos by Pacôme Pabandji.
 
A hundred days into the first term of the new Central African Republic's (CAR) president, Catherine Samba Panza, Christian-Muslim reconciliation remains as thorny a topic as ever. In an attempt at peace-building, local journalists and artists are trying to launch a TV series to bring their fellow citizens tegother – and this is proving to be no mean feat.
 
Central Africa has been wracked by violence since March 2013. After a wave of violence by the primarily Muslim ex-Seleka rebels, it is now Christian militias that are terrorising the country. To date, the conflict has resulted in 1.5 million internally displaced persons and created a wide rift between Christians and Muslims. More than 90% of the estimated 60,000 to 80,000 Muslims living in the capital Bangui have fled to the north of the country, causing a de facto partitioning of the country.
 
In an attempt to contribute to the reconciliation process launched by the Central African Republic's government in January, several actors and journalists have initiated a project called “Centro Liv’N PIZ”, a TV show that features interviews with Bangui residents and short re-enactments played by actors. The first episode (57 minutes long) was supposed to be broadcast on May 3 on state television, but the filming was delayed due to security problems (clashes have broken out in Bangui several times in the last few days).
Contributors

“Often, people prevent us from filming”

Pacôme Pabandji is an independent journalist and the producer of a show called “Centro Liv’n PIZ”. He regularly hosts TV shows across the border in Douala, Cameroon.
 
Our show’s concept is to allocate absolutely equal airtime to Christians and Muslims. Through this show, we want to prove that both communities share the same preoccupations and to show something other than just the violence that is sadly affecting all of our countrymen.
 
In order to not just feature a series of interviews, we decided to splice in short re-enactments played by actors. These re-enactments last seven minutes and represent the current crisis in Central Africa. For instance, in the series pilot, a Christian and a Muslim get in an argument, accusing one another of being members of rebel groups. The village chief cuts in and warns them that their fight risks destroying the village. In the end, they decide to build a house together.
 

“There are three Muslims on our team”
 
Filming our show is quite difficult: we frequently have to cancel shoots because we film in neighbourhoods where there are often attacks, such as the PK5 [Editor’s note: a Bangui neighbourhood where many Muslims live]. In most cases, we run into people who don’t understand our approach, who refuse to be filmed or who interrupt the filming by chasing us away. Once, we even had to turn over our camera’s memory card – which had several hours’ worth of filming stored in it - to disgruntled residents in order to prevent the situation from getting out of control.
 
Luckily, many others do notice that we have a mixed team, made up of Christians and Muslims, and decide to help us along. Out of the eleven people who work on our show, we have three Muslims. They are brave, because it’s becoming increasingly difficult for them to move about freely in Bangui. Our objective is to meet people out in the world, whatever the consequences. We don’t want to do this show in a studio; that doesn’t interest us.
 
For the time being, I am funding the show thanks to my savings and with help from my friends. We were approached by politicians from different parties who wanted to fund us. But we refused, because we want to stay independent and avoid any kind of propaganda.
 
The trailer for the show, which will be broadcast on state television starting the week of May 12.
  
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Alexandre Capron (@alexcapron).
Close