by Fanny Nzie
Since the military coup organized by a coalition of predominantly Muslim rebels known as Seleka on the 24th of March 2013 against President Bozizé, the Central African Republic has continued to sink into a humanitarian and security crisis.
How did the Central African Republic, a country already classified as the world´s least developed countries, find itself in this apparently, never-ending turmoil? It is no secret that part of this lies in the continuous coups and bad governance it has witnessed since independence from her former colonial master, France.
Here is a narrative of the Central African Republic´s ordeal:
CAR´s troubles started on the 13th of August 1960, when it gained its “independence” with two young aides, Abel Goumba and David Dacko, involved in a power struggle. Eventually, with the help of the French, David Dacko took power and Abel Goumba was arrested. Why? I guess David Dacko being the highest bidder, put the interests of his country at stake and probably had more to offer to the French. His seven-year term was however cut short as his very own cousin, and army commander, Colonel Jean-Bédel Bokassa, overthrew him via a coup on December 31st 1965. President Bokassa declared himself President for Life in 1972, and named himself Emperor Bokassa I of the Central African Empire. He then became a terror to the country, grasping all important government posts for himself. This led to an unhappy France carrying out a coup against Bokassa in 1979 and “restoring” Dacko to power. Many Central Africans regarded Dacko as a puppet of the French and particularly Bokassa’s former Prime Minister, Ange-Félix Patassé, challenged his right to rule. Again, his term was cut short as two years later; General André Kolingba overthrew Dacko in a coup on the 1st of September 1981. It is believed that Kolingba had the support of local French security officers who are suspected of having acted “without” authorization by France’s then President, H.E. Francois Mitterrand. But I guess the real facts will never be written down in the books of history.
Kolingba as a son of the Gbaya, the largest ethnic group in CAR, ruled with a military junta until 1985. In 1992, and under international pressure, Kolingba was forced to agree to hold free elections in the C.A.R. and Ange-Félix Patassé won the elections becoming the fifth president of the country. Patassé suspected General François Bozizé was involved in a coup attempt against him and so Bozizé fled with loyal troops to Chad. In March 2003, Bozizé launched a surprise attack against Patassé, who was in Niger at the time, thereby succeeding in overthrowing Ange-Félix Patassé. Bozizé ruled for 10 years, until the 24th of March 2013, when the Seleka rebels led by Michel Djotodia took over the presidency and Djotodia auto-proclaimed himself “president of the republic”. Francois Bozizé then fled to Cameroon.
Michel Djotodia became the first Muslim president in a country most of whose population is Christian. After dissolving the Seleka in March 2013, he was unable to respond to the subsequent abuses engaged against the Christian population by the ex-Seleka rebels, who had refused to disband. In response to these reprisal attacks on Christian civilians, a new group of rebels emerged, the Anti-Balaka (“anti-machete” or “anti-sword” in the local Sango and Mandja languages), who initially aimed at defending the Christian population from attacks by the ex Seleka rebels, but later on directed reprisals against Muslim civilians, whom they accused of complicity with ex-Seleka . Following mass atrocities committed by both the ex-Seleka and the Anti-Balaka, the French army seeing the risk of the country spiraling into a genocide by November 2013, appealed to the United Nations Security Council for a peace resolution in the C.A.R.
On the 5th of December 2013 the United Nations Security Council authorized the establishment of the MISCA, The African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (Mission internationale de soutien à la Centrafrique sous conduite africaine), with an aim to stabilize the chaos that arose as a result of the political transition of the new regime and to call for the organization of free elections in the country during a time period of 12 months. Parallel to this, the Sangaris operation led by the French forces was launched and authorized to take all “necessary measures” to support the MISCA. The MISCA was initially led by the African Union and was deployed on December 19th 2013 under the command of General Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko (MISCA Command), General Martin Tumenta Chomu (Military Command) and Colonel Patrice Ostangue Bengone (Command of the MISCA Police Component). However, and unfortunately, the resolution included the option to transfer the MISCA to a larger mission under United Nations authority with peacekeeping forces “if the need arose”. And as such, French troops were deployed to Bangui alongside troops from Gabon, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon and other African countries. Nevertheless, this only led to more bloodshed.
On the 25th of December 2013, the killings of six Chadian MISCA peacekeepers in Bangui by the anti-balaka militia were reported. The militia justified these killings by accusing Chadian MISCA soldiers of complicity with the ex-Seleka and protecting Muslim citizens. On the other hand, some News media, in an attempt to portray the incompetency and dysfunction of the MISCA mission, reported that the Chadian soldiers opened fire on the Burundian contingent in the African MISCA, leading to a response by the Burundian elements and thereby killing Chadian soldiers. The truth I guess shall never be told. Following this incident, Chadian MISCA troops were allegedly deployed to the north, while the rest of the African troops were dispatched to the southern part of the C.A.R. territory to maintain peace.
Under French and international pressure Michel Djotodia was forced to resign on the 10th of January 2014 and the National Transitional Council elected Catherine Samba-Panza as interim president on January 20th 2014, with the hope of restoring peace in C.A.R. This however has led to no avail as now the, anti-balaka militia is bent on wiping out the Central African Republic’s Muslim community. On the 13thof February 2014, Catherine Samba Panza, declared war against the militia, saying the anti-balaka had “lost their sense of mission” and had become “the ones who kill, who pillage, and who are violent”. Since January 2014 the death toll has increased and more troops have been deployed to the C.A.R. to stop the violence.
From this narrative it is therefore clear, that France has always played a major role in the instability of this country. What is in for them in this whole chaos? Let us do the math. According to the CIA World Factbook, the Central African Republic is reeking of diamonds, uranium, timber, gold, oil and hydropower. From 2002 to 2007, timber accounted for an average of 48% of export receipts and in 2002, diamond exports made up close to 50% of the CAR’s export earnings. Uranium being a key natural resource and a very heavy metal, which can be used as an abundant source of concentrated energy, is required in most European countries for the generation and supply of electricity. Over 13% of the world’s electricity is generated from uranium in nuclear reactors. France gets three quarters of its electricity from uranium. Since 2001, she has imported all of its uranium from plants across Africa, 30% of which comes from the Niger subsoil. So while France enjoys electricity, local communities around uranium mines in Africa suffer from pollution, unemployment, health issues and sub-standard or non-existent education. To date uranium mining in Niger sustains light in France and darkness in Niger. But are the Niger reserves running dry? Is France desperately looking for new reserves in the CAR after Mali or simply protecting its already established exploitation interests in CAR? It therefore is saddening to know that while she robs us of our natural resources, France also plunges Africa in unending wars, chaos and human life loss.
With the political crisis in CAR slowly getting out of hand, the infiltration of the Boko Haram rebels into the northern Cameroonian territory, the increased killings of Muslims across the Central African Republic and their fleeing to the north of Cameroon for refuge, one can only foresee and fear the spread of a religious war into an already peaceful country. Consequently, political and religious leaders have to start preaching and promoting religious tolerance to the population before Cameroon becomes next in line for a long-term bloodshed.
Fanny Nzie is a member of a Cameroonian NGO (Citizen Service Corps) based in Cologne, Germany that is committed to providing qualified assistance from the Cameroonian diaspora to local communities and the civil society
This article first appeared in Africa on the Blog
This is a guest post; views may not represent that of ECDPM