Mr. Abdoulaye, how does a linguist get into politics?
Our president is a professor of mathematics, the prime minister is a geography professor – so politics is not limited to one subject. But language is found everywhere. Linguists are the best spies, nothing escapes language.
What role does multilingualism play in the CAR?
In spite of the country's inner turmoil, we have a common language, Sango. Everyone speaks it, so that’s how people come together. But there are also about a hundred other languages that the ethnic communities speak. French is the language of education. Only those who did not go to school do not understand it.
Can you describe your working day as a minister?
In the morning I do sport to reduce stress. Then I pray, have breakfast, read through some files. Before I leave the house, I take security measures, which means I arrange for soldiers to pick me up with a car. In the office, I find out from the agenda what official appointments I have. In the evening I have time for my family and sometimes I receive guests at home.
Do you always have bodyguards with you?
Yes, one soldier sleeps at my home and stays with my family, while another accompanies me.
The Central African Republic is considered the poorest country in the world. What does it mean for you to be a politician there?
I see the wealth of the Central Africa Republic, because it has enormous potential: mineral resources that have not yet been exhausted, oil, gold, uranium, iron, diamonds. It is the violent conflict that holds us back and deters investors.
Three quarters of the country is controlled by rebel groups. How does politics function in such a situation?
"Controlled" is too strong a word. It sounds as if there are no traces of government action in these areas. But we have health centres and schools in all the regions, at the moment we are building a road to Cameroon. It is the task of this government to restore the state’s authority. At the moment all our efforts are being put into ending the conflict. Because the country is torn apart. You see people talking to each other at the market, and suddenly violence breaks out again.
What kind of political efforts are being made to improve the situation?
At the initiative of the African Union, a dialogue will begin in July to bring armed groups, the government and the population closer together and to seek consensus. A key challenge is to demobilise armed groups and reintegrate them into society or the army. Since 2015, this has been done within the framework of the DDR (Désarmement, Démobilisation, Réintegration) programme of the United Nations. We are also trying to improve the economic situation: In November 2017, we organized an economic forum for foreign investors, for example from Lebanon and Yemen.
What gives you hope for peace?
I am an optimist. The Central African Republic is not the first country to have had to overcome conflict. I believe that the will to peace must come from the people themselves, to forgive one another, to forget, to focus on life.
The former German tennis professional Boris Becker was recently appointed the Central African Republic’s special attaché for culture and sport. How did this decision come about?
Nobody here really knows Boris Becker, we are not a tennis nation. We play football and basketball. I spoke to the foreign minister: He said he does not recognise his signature on Boris Becker's appointment, nor does the government. It must be forged.
This interview was conducted by Stephanie von Hayek