Advancing our Institutions: Reflection on the Central African Early Warning Mechanism (MARAC)

14 December, 2021

By Djerabe Djatto Bonheur

I. Introduction

With a background in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and working experience in the field of Early Warning, the Management for Peace and Security in Africa (MPSA), with its program, was presented to us as an excellent opportunity to strengthen our capacities in the area of management of peace and security in Africa. As participants in the 14th cohort, especially after attending the first five sessions, we realised that the program had contributed significantly to strengthening our technical capacities to work better in our respective institutions.

This capacity-building that we have gained allows us to contribute to fundamental changes at our institutions in general and, particularly, to the operations within the Early Warning Mechanism of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) called MARAC.

MARAC at ECCAS was created in October 1984 and had an economic mandate essentially to contribute to regional integration. However, the numerous political and security crises in most of its Member states (7 out of 11) led to a total cessation of the Community’s activities between 1988 and 1998.

To restart activities, Member States decided to establish a framework for political dialogue to prevent and resolve problems that threaten peace, security and stability in the ECCAS sub-region. The rationale was to ensure a peaceful and favourable environment for development and regional integration.[1]

Within this framework, the Protocol Relating to the Central African Peace and Security Council (COPAX) establishment was adopted, with the primary objective of promoting peace, security, and stability. To achieve this objective, COPAX formed two organs: the Central African Early Warning Mechanism (MARAC) and the Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC), which are now integrated into the Continental Early Warning System (CEWS) and the African Standby Force (ASF) respectively.

As the main organ in ECCAS specialised in early warning for conflict prevention, MARAC, located at the Department of Human Integration, Peace, Security and Stability, was also engaged in political affairs and conflict prevention.

MARAC is an older mechanism than the Continental Early Warning System (CEWS). Still, with the adoption of the Protocol on Peace and Security Council of the African Union[2] in 2002 in Durban, South Africa, and especially with the signing of the memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the area of peace and security between the African Union, the Regional Economic Communities and the Coordinating Mechanisms of the Regional Standby Brigades of Eastern Africa and Northern Africa in 2008, it has now become an integral part of the continental system.

It is, therefore, as a Regional Mechanism that MARAC simultaneously serves as a pillar of CEWS in the Central African region, and this has been operational since 2008.

The training we had at the Institute for Peace, and Security Studies (IPSS) allowed us, among other things, to be in touch with colleagues from other RECs or institutions working in the field of peace and security. In the following lines, we propose to list some concrete lessons learned from the training and show in which areas of peace and security our skills have evolved after the training.

After that, we will continue the reflection by proposing an analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of the MARAC, the area in which we are working. This analysis will help us, then, to identify what we would want to maintain, change, or start anew.

The present reflection will also suggest a small project to support the operational capacity building of MARAC, particularly in collecting data in rural areas to prevent conflicts related to pastoralism, as part of its mandate.

Finally, we will also recommend positive changes at the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), where we give service.

II. Actionable insights are drawn, and new skills and attitudinal changes are gained for use at our workplace to more efficiently and effectively address the challenges that the continent faces

As participants of the programme, the expectations of the MPSA Programme were significantly met because the training allowed us better to understand the concepts of conflict, peace and security. For instance, we have learned to distinguish positive peace from negative peace. We have also learned to think better about Africa’s positioning in a context of multilateralism, including considering its past and current situation and future outcomes.

Our continent faces new threats as regards peace and security, with many internal conflicts hampering its development. But Africa is also heavily impacted by international issues that affect global security. Therefore, although the problems of peace and security are very complex, peace and security are essential for developing the African continent.

Our self-assessment allowed us to see that we have improved our conflict analysis capabilities regarding new skills and attitudinal changes. In addition, individual work, group work and other practical exercises have been very instructive and have enabled us to produce analytical reports to the relevant hierarchy.

For example, in the field of peaceful conflict resolution, we have been particularly interested in mediation and preventive diplomacy. We now know the importance of a Mediation Support Unit (MSU) within an organisation with a mandate in this area. Through the MPSA program, we can claim that we can now work well in a Mediation Support Unit.

Concerning early warning, the MPSA program has enabled us better understand the importance of coordination between the various relevant actors to work on early response and prevent conflicts and crises.

Previously very sceptical and critical of Peace Support Operations (PSO), especially those led by the United Nations system, we have now learned how to assess better the different missions based on their mandates and the means used.

Although we still believe that many resources are being spent on peace support missions on the continent with no satisfactory results, we think that such missions are necessary for some situations.

In terms of writing in English and taking part in public presentations, we have improved our skills through interaction with colleagues who have diverse backgrounds and experiences. This is worth mentioning because the academic environment at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies (IPSS) allowed us to break away from certain institutional habits related to our working environment within the ECCAS.

We have, finally, improved our way of interacting with colleagues at the various levels of the hierarchy by being more proactive.

III. What do we want to maintain, change or start anew?

The MPSA experience encourages us to continue building our capacity while working. We also believe that it is important for us to continue to be proactive and work to ensure that our service maintains a close relationship with decision-makers at the level of the sub-regional institutions. Thus, we need to get deeply involved to make the service of MARAC very credible within the Secretariat General of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and among the Member States. In particular, we have to pay particular attention to sources of information and the data on which analyses are to be made.

As for what needs to change, we think it is time to abandon the mindset of always relying on partners’ support. Instead, we should count on our Institution and its Member States’ resources by prioritising and identifying activities that do not require too much money.

IV. SWOT Analysis of MARAC

MARAC is one of the means of implementing the Central African Peace and Security Council (COPAX), alongside the Multinational Force for Central Africa (the regional standby force) and the Human Security Directorate of ECCAS. It was, therefore, set up with a clearly defined institutional framework whose function is governed by rules of procedure adopted by the Summit of Heads of State and Government, the highest decision-making body of the Community.[3]

In addition, MARAC also works within the continental framework in collaboration with CEWS and the early warning mechanisms of other RECs/RMs. This collaboration is very beneficial for the development of MARAC as ECCAS is the only REC on the continent that borders all other RECs and jointly shares several challenges with them.

The advantages mentioned above have enabled MARAC to train its employees well and benefit from certain technologies developed by its technical partners, particularly CEWS. However, many problems, in particular, the lack of a stable and regular budget, have resulted in an insufficient number of MARAC staff. As a result, its activities depend, to a large extent, on funding from outside the Community.

After a discussion with colleagues from MPSA14 and to give a clear picture of the MARAC assessment, we present its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the SWOT matrix below:


  • The structure exists and operates within a well-defined institutional framework;
  • A core of experienced staff is in place;
  • Field monitors are identified and trained;
  • Field monitors have been equipped;
  • The indicators module exists, and a computerised early warning system (MARAC Reporter) is operational.

  • Staff deficit (in terms of number) ;
  • Early response mechanism not fully in place;
  • Insufficient working conditions of field monitors (fees and running costs);
  • Obsolete equipment;
  • Absence of a permanent situation – room and its permanent staff
  • Very limited collaboration with civil society, the AU and the UN;
  • Insufficient interaction with COPAX decision-makers (irregular reporting).



  • Support of partners including the EU and UN;
  • Clear political will of the COPAX bodies;
  • Desire of a core of experienced experts to continue working with ECCAS;
  • Political will for collaboration and connectivity with the AU and CSOs.


  • Difficulties in freedom of action;
  • Lack of regular budget;
  • Difficulty in interacting with other internal skills of conflict prevention structures;
  • Excessive reliance on external funding from partners


V. Project for substantial improvement and change to MARAC

5.1. Title

Project to support the operational capacity building of MARAC in collecting data in rural areas for the prevention of community conflicts related to pastoralism

5.2. Background and rationale

In Central Africa, MARAC is the main body of the Economic Community of the Central African States in charge of early warning and conflict prevention. To carry out this mission, it is based on a central structure at ECCAS headquarters, and decentralised structures in the Member States called national offices composed of state officials, CSOs, research institutes, think tanks, etc. These decentralised structures were supposed to be organised in each country through elaborate methods of observing events and situations likely to threaten peace, security and stability in the region. However, based on conflict indicators regularly updated, they have not been found effective.

In remote areas away from the capitals of Central African countries, particularly in rural areas, there are numerous human rights violations and a recurrence of violent community conflicts marked each year by several deadly clashes between farmers and pastoralists.[4] Such pastoralism-related conflicts are mostly identified in Chad, Cameroon, CAR and recently extended to DRC. The phenomenon is growing and becoming worrisome as armed groups exploit the situations.

In this context of instability, MARAC, which is not equipped with adequate infrastructural and human resources and has not been adapted to meet current needs at the level of Member States, is required to provide quality analyses. Hence, in the short term, there is a need to implement a project to strengthen MARAC’s operational capacities in these remote areas so it could contribute better to preventing the conflict.

5.3. Objective of the Project

The project is expected to meet the following general and specific needs of MARAC.

5.3.1. General objective

The overall objective of this project is to improve the operational capacity of MARAC by strengthening its data collection mechanism in remote areas to prevent pastoralism-related conflicts in the ECCAS States better.

5.3.2. Specific objectives

The specific objectives, in the short and long term, are to:

  • Identify and train 100 members of local communities in strategic intelligence and information gathering;
  • Improve, qualitatively and quantitatively, the database of MARAC with the participation of an operational network of field reporters specialised in the prevention of community conflicts related to pastoralism; and
  • Conduct regular studies on the prevention and resolution of pastoral conflicts in Central Africa.


5.4. Project details

5.4.1. Targets/ beneficiaries

This project primarily targets the countries of the Central Africa sub-region, including Cameroon, CAR, DRC and Chad, where there are conflicts related to pastoralism.

It will be necessary to identify, from the communities of farmers and pastoralists. These one hundred (100) people work as government employees and local staff of CSOs (teachers, nurses, doctors, etc.) to be trained and equipped with ICT tools to quickly report any event or behaviour that could lead to conflict or security crisis.

The beneficiary will be MARAC, as it is expected to improve its database in quality and quantity to function better. There are also the Member States and local people who will benefit from a safer environment through conflict prevention and development activities. Finally, the trainees will benefit as they would become professionals knowledgeable in early warning of conflicts.

5.4.2. Institutional leadership of the project

The project will be led by a team within the direction of Political Affairs and MARAC at ECCAS.

5.4.3. Duration

The estimated duration of the first phase of the project is 12 months.

5.4.4. Budget funding

The project’s overall cost is estimated at USD 500,000, which will cover all expenses (personnel, equipment, training, missions, operation, etc.). The breakdown will be as follows.

Staff Equipments Training Operational cost Other costs Total
210,000 55,000 120,000 55,000 60,000 500,000

The project will be included in the community budget and financed by the ECCAS Member States. However, it may be subject to funding from any community partner working for conflict prevention and development, if necessary.

5.5. SWOT analysis of the project


  • Relevant project targeting at least 2 SDGs (2 and 16)
  • Political will of States to prevent/resolve pastoral conflicts
  • Targets, costs, well-defined beneficiaries

  • Success strongly linked to the political will of the Member States
  • Short duration of implementation and lack of a sustainability strategy
  • Lack of a social and environmental impact study

  • Several funding opportunities
  • Regional and international contexts conducive to conflict prevention
  • MARAC’s and CEWS’ experience in training field reporters

  • Mobility of nomadic pastoralists
  • Activism of armed groups
  • High illiteracy rate in rural areas

5.6. Expected outcomes

  • One hundred (100) people living in rural areas would be identified, trained and equipped to form a specialised field monitor network on conflict prevention related to pastoralism.
  • MARAC’s secure database would improve in quantity and quality.
  • Studies are expected to be regularly carried out in Central Africa sub-region on the best practices of preventing and resolving conflicts related to pastoralism.
  • The number and intensity of conflicts related to pastoralism would be diminished in Central Africa.
  • Economic activities and peaceful cohabitation would be developed in the project area.

VI. Conclusion and Principal Recommendations

At the end of this brief reflection on the impact that MPSA training has had on us and the current functioning of the institution in which we work, we believe MPSA is a relevant programme for us.

After this great experience in the IPSS, we have contributed better to the achievement of the mandate of our institution and our service in particular.

MARAC is one of the main means at the Central African Peace and Security Council’s disposal for implementing peace and security. It has clearly defined missions within a legal framework adopted at the highest level of the community.

MARAC’s operationalisation has enabled it to have technical tools and experienced staff who should continue to be proactive in supporting decision-makers in conflict prevention.

Finally, since peace, security and stability are essential for any development and regional integration, funding mechanisms should function properly to enable a body such as MARAC to carry out its mission.

To help our institution improve its function in peace and security, we would like to forward the following recommendations to ECCAS.

  1. Implementing the Community Contribution for Integration (CCI) and the COPAX fund

The CCI is a community financing mechanism that consists of levying a percentage of customs duties in the Member States and paying into the community account. However, this mechanism, adopted by the Heads of State several years ago, has not been materialised yet, although it may emancipate the community from financing partners who still apply complex procedures. The same applies to the COPAX Fund, which should make it possible to finance the ECCAS Peace and Security Department activities, which is not operational.

  1. Strengthening institutional presence in Member States

The establishment of MARAC’s national bureau and the institutional presence of ECCAS in Member States could contribute better to implementing decisions made at the regional level, particularly about conflict prevention. Moreover, the establishment of MARAC’s national offices will bring the sub-regional mechanism closer to Member States and involve them directly in collecting, analysing, and disseminating information to better respond to peace and security threats.

  1. Establishing a partnership with institutes and research centres such as the IPSS

This would help to reinforce the capacity of staff at the level of experts and decision-makers.

  1. Encouraging Member States to train more women to participate in peace support operations on the continent

It is evident that women play a significant role in peacemaking. This should be given due recognition, and more women should be recruited to contribute to the operationalisation of the African Standby Force (ASF).

[1] Article 4.1 of the Treaty creating ECCAS goes as: The aim of ECCAS is to promote and strengthen harmonious cooperation and balanced and self-sustaining development in all areas of economic and social activity: Industry; transport and communications; energy, agriculture and natural resources; trade and customs; monetary and financial issues; human resources, tourism, health, education and culture; science and technology; migration and movement of people …

[2] MARAC was established in February 2000 with the adoption of the protocol related to Peace and Security Council for Central African State (COPAX).

[3]The COPAX Protocol defines MARAC as a mechanism for observation, monitoring, crisis and conflict prevention in the ECCAS region (Article 21 of the COPAX Protocol). Article 20 of this Protocol stipulates that the functioning of the MARAC shall be governed by rules of procedure.

[4]A study conducted by UNHCR, AfDB and the Lutheran World Federation indicates that “no strategy for conflict management and mediation has been proposed in Central Africa”, despite the persistent problem.