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Rebel President Seeking Overthrow of Elections

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on January 1, 2021 17:51

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As we enter 2021, some dramas carry over from 2020. In the Central African Republic a long and turbulent history is about to become even more convoluted, with opposition parties seeking to annull recent elections, and an ex-President apparently fomenting rebellion. Out of Africa always something new. Or not?

The Central African Republic, (CAR) long described as being on the margins of the margins of the world, is moving from the French sphere of influence to a Russian one, with an Islamist flavour in the mix. And the people are paying the price. 

Let us first remember Jean-Bédel Bokassa;son of an executed rebel, decorated French soldier, military putchist, President, and self-proclaimed Emperor. He was overthrown and condemned to death. Later released, he claimed to be the 13th Apostle and to have had secret meetings with the Pope. He was alleged to have shared his country's diamond wealth with French politicians, but that did not save him. 

Jean-Bédel Bokassa, Emperor of the Central African Republic. Photo Wikipedia Commons.

And what, dear reader, does that have to do with us? Well, Presidential elections were held in the CAR on 26 December 2020 with the incumbent, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, seeking a second term. He was counting on the support of Russian advisors and Rwandan soldiers to keep disqualified challenger, Francois Bozizé and his alleged militant rebel supporters, at bay. Observers believe the Russian interest in this region has to do with diamonds, arms, and possibly uranium. 

The history of this conflict can be dragged out to include all fashionable themes. Not only has a Christian/Islam dimension developed from erstwhile peaceful co-existence to the mobilization for armed conflict, so too has the north-south divide in Africa been invoked. As French military and administrative support weakened, other forces sought to move into the vacuum. 

Rebel fighter, 2007. Photo from Wikipedia, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0

United Nations peacekeepers tried to stabilize the country before the elections and to push rebel forces from the occupied towns, but three peacekeepers paid the ultimate price. France sent warplanes to overfly the country in the vain hope that a show of force would restore calm. 

The upshot is that a coalition of forces, including five Presidential candidates, have now called for the elections to be annulled, claiming that a third of the electorate was unable to vote. 

Untouched beauty in the Dzangha-Sangha reserve. Photo Damiano Luchetti, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

This country, one of the least developed, poorest in the world, is the home of immense natural beauty and mineral resources. It is caught in a humanitarian maelstrom with no apparent way out except for the precious ballot box, and that seems to be held hostage by armed men. 

As we move into a new year, spare a moment to consider the value of precious political rights. And may your 2021 be peaceful and prosperous. 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on January 1, 2021 17:51

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Central African Republic held presidential and legislative elections Sunday amid fears of violence after a campaign period...

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