Alex Hamasaki, Student Intern
Last Modified: 03:10 a.m. DST, 25 March 2013
BANGUI, Central African Republic – Rebels overthrew the Central African Republic’s President this Sunday. According to the Associated Press, the rebels, known as the coalition group Seleka, declared that the country has “opened a new page in its history.”
President Francois Bozize fled while extra French troops have moved to secure the airport, officials said.
Two months prior to the overthrow, the rebels had signed a peace deal to allow the President to stay in power until 2016. However, the rebels began accusing the President of not following-up in his promises.
In the days leading up to the overthrow of Bozize, the rebels have performed several armed attacks. They captured the north city of Bambari and the area around Bria.
Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General condemned the attacks. According to the Uganda Daily Eye, Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement issued on Wednesday night saying, “These developments gravely undermine the peace agreements in place and the efforts of the international community to consolidate peace in the Central African Republic.” Ban urged for all parties to cease hostilities immediately.
The Central African Republic (CAR) President Bozize pleaded with Foreign Powers for help. He focused especially on seeking French assistance, as they were their former colonizer.
Paris declined military assistance.
Following the overthrow of Bozize by the rebels, Reuters reports that the French President’s office said that they would send more troops to protect their citizens. President François Hollande spoke with Ban and Chadian President Idriss Deby and reiterated his plea for restraint and dialogue between the parties.
Associated Press reports that Ban condemned the unconstitutional seizure of power and called for a restoration of constitutional order. He also expressed concern over reports of human rights violations.
Central African Republic, a nation of 4.5 million, has long been wracked by rebellions and power grabs. Bozize himself took power in 2003 following a rebellion, and his tenure has been marked by conflict with myriad armed groups.
The landlocked country has been wracked by rebellions and power grabs. CAR held their first multi-party democratic elections in 1933 which brought Ange-Felix Patasse to power. He lost popular support and was overthrown in 2003 by French-backed Bozize. Following Bozize’s re-election in 2011, his rule was plagued with corruption, underdevelopment, authoritarianism, and the creation of an open rebellion against Bozize’s government by an alliance of armed opposition factions known as Seleka.
In December of 2012, Seleka launched its offensive, accusing Bozize of reneging on a peace deal and demanded that he step down.
Seleka signed a ceasefire agreement and joined a power-sharing agreement government on 11 January 2013 and dropped their demands for Bozize to resign. However, on 23 January 2013, the ceasefire was broken and the government blamed Seleka, Seleka blaming the government for failing to honor the terms of the power-sharing agreement.
By March 24, rebels entered Bangui and took over the Presidential Palace. According to GlobalVoices, Michel Djotodia has declared himself as president of CAR. This information remains unconfirmed by other news sources.
The African Union condemned Seleka’s actions and announced a travel ban and assets freeze against actors involved in violating humanitarian rights or the January peace agreement, reports CNN.
The office of President Hollande said in a statement that some South African soldiers were killed in clashes that lead up to the overthrow of Bozize. UN spokeswoman Uwolowulakana Ikavi said that UN offices and some residences of UN personnel were looted.
Meanwhile in CAR, Seleka rebels urged citizens to remain calm and to prepare themselves to welcome rebel forces into the country, CNN reports.
The recent events highlight the problems of Bozize’s government. CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world, and among the ten poorest countries in Africa. According to the Human Development Index (HDI) CAR received a 0.343, which gives the country a rank of 179 out of 187 countries within their data.
HDI is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income that ranks countries into four tiers of human development. Countries with ratings near 1 indicates high human development, while ratings near 0 indicate low human development.
Additionally, a 2009 Human Rights Report by the US Department of States notes that CAR’s human rights record remained poor, with concerns over numerous government abuses.
The take-over indicates the desperation of the country and its citizens. Without the improvement of the government, Bozize and others will find that peace will be difficult to negotiate with Seleka rebels.
- Top News: Central African Republic president flees as rebels enter Bangui (guardian.co.uk)
- VIDEO: CAR rebels ‘enter capital Bangui’ (bbc.co.uk)
- ‘Fierce gunfire’ as rebels enter Bangui (edition.cnn.com)
- S. Africa takes casualties during CAR coup (cbsnews.com)