Former IRI Program Officer and Leader of Generation Democracy in CAR Becomes Chief of Staff to the National Assembly President

  • Nicolas Teindas

Jean-Félix Riva, who served as Program Officer in IRI’s office in Bangui from March to July 2016, is moving on to be Chief of Staff to the newly-elected National Assembly President.

During his time at IRI, Riva made a significant contribution to the IRI program by leading the development of the Generation Democracy network, IRI’s global youth initiative, in CAR. As the former President of the National Youth Council (Conseil National de la Jeunesse – CNJ) of the National Association of Central African Students (Association Nationale des Étudiants Centrafricains – ANECA) and prominent student activist in the capital city, he is considered a leader by his peers.

Riva brought his expertise and knowledge of working with CAR’s youth to help identify Generation Democracy member organizations and build a core group of Bangui University students to join the initiative. This group of students, stemming from diverse provinces of the country, gathers monthly with the support of IRI and the U.S. Embassy in Bangui to discuss key topics for the advancement of democracy and youth in CAR. Riva was instrumental in the definition of relevant topics for these monthly meetings. He also helped identify youth activists and engaged students who were in a position to share the information and best practices discussed in Generation Democracy meetings with their networks in their home regions, therefore providing nationwide reach for the initiative.

The sense of dialogue, initiative, and collaboration that Riva demonstrated in leading the development of Generation Democracy in CAR reflects the quality of his work at IRI. Engaged and passionate, he quickly became an integral and essential member of the team. His professionalism, knowledge of the political environment in CAR and excitement for democracy is also what led him to be selected as a Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) fellow in 2010, the prestigious program’s inaugural year.

Riva’s eagerness to participate in CAR’s post-transition efforts led him to accept the position of Chief of Staff of the newly-elected National Assembly President. CAR recently completed an electoral cycle that effectively marked the end of the transitional period and government, led by Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza since February 2014, and a long period of conflict and violence. CAR’s recovery and stabilization remain an ongoing process. The newly-elected National Assembly, which held its first extraordinary session on May 6, 2016, has a crucial role to play, but still faces significant challenges.

Central African citizens have high expectations for the post-transition period, which will be governed by the new Constitution and new institutions.  These institutions must demonstrate their value to citizens to establish and maintain confidence in the country’s democracy in a time of ongoing instability and insecurity. As with most newly-elected legislatures in developing democracies, an estimated 80 percent of the members of the new National Assembly are first-time deputies. As such, they take office with little or no experience to draw upon and limited knowledge of their roles and responsibilities.

This is why IRI’s program supports capacity development for deputies, parliamentary staff, and parliamentary commissions. The National Assembly, as one of CAR’s new institutions, is essential to CAR’s democratic, economic, and social development in the post-transition period. I am therefore looking forward to working with Riva in his new capacity. I want to congratulate him on his new position and ensure him of all our support in these challenging but also exciting times ahead. 

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