The Troubled Search For a Leader In the Central African Republic - Adigun Ajibola
Arising from a summit in Chad to end the sectarian violence in the Central African Republic, a 135-member National Transition Council has been given the herculean task of choosing a new president for the country that the newly-resigned leader, Michel Djotodia, describes as impossible to rule even for angels. The Council has fifteen days to choose a new leader to restore calm in a country that has known no peace since former President Francoise Bozize was ousted in a coup by the Seleka rebel coalition nine months ago. Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet currently presides over the council made up of members of the national assembly. The interim president will be ineligible to run when elections hold later this year.
The resignation of President Michel Djotodia and the Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye, who have ruled since they came into power after the Seleka rebel coalition ousted Francoise Bozize in a coup last year, was met with mixed reactions. While the Muslim population of the country were scared that reprisals may be visited on them, the Christian population that has suffered most attacks during the nine month rule of Michel Djotodia rejoiced in the streets of Bangui. Michel Djotodia is presently in asylum in neighbouring Benin.
U.S. officials have estimated that more than a tenth of the population, 400, 000 people, have been displaced and more than 500 persons killed in a series of attacks carried out by rival Muslim and Christian militias. Reports of burnings and hackings have been reported from the different groups. More than 33, 000 people from other African countries have been airlifted, or awaiting airlift from the troubled region.
The visit of Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, to the country in December highlighted the complex humanitarian crisis that had unfolded. She has pledged $15 million in humanitarian aid to the country in addition to the $100 million already pledged. The US does not have significant financial or national security interest in the country.
She also announced that US military liaisons will be dispatched to the country to assist the African Union soldiers that have joined French soldiers to stem the violence in the country. Her visit raised international awareness to a crisis that has been mainly the concern of the French and the African Union.
French troops arrived Bangui, Central African Republic, backed by a UN Security Council resolution 2127 proposed by France. The French deployment, along with that of African forces was unanimously approved by the U.N. Security Council. The Council also imposed an arms’ embargo in the country last year. The peacekeeping mission has the mandate to protect citizens and restore order in the country.
Violence has raged in the country since a coalition of rebels deposed President Francoise Bozize in March last year, the latest in a series of coups since the nation gained independence. Bozize fled the country after his ouster. Christian vigilante groups loyal to Bozize formed to battle Seleka, the predominantly Muslim coalition behind the president’s removal.
Michel Djotodia, who came into power when his Muslim rebel faction Seleka seized power and plunged the country into a civil war. The nine-month rule of the country’s first Muslim leader witnessed a cycle of attacks and counter attacks by Christian and Muslim militia that has displaced one tenth of the population and thousands of people dead. His rule was particularly resented by the country's Christian majority.
The country has had five coups and endured perpetual political instability since it gained independence from France in 1960. A summit in Nice between France and 54 African countries to discuss trade and sustainable development was dominated by discussions on the crisis in the country.
One of the goals of the summit that held in December was for France to shed its policeman role in Africa. The summit highlighted Africa’s solutions to Africa’s problems.
The National Transitional Council’s 135 members arrived in N’Djamena on a Chadian government aircraft to meet with the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States and leading members of the opposition party. The council has 15 days to choose another president.
Elections will be made possible through the expected reinforcement of the African-led International Support Mission to CAR (MISCA) with a contingent from Rwanda and the continued engagement of French troops known as SANGARIS.
UN Special Representative, Babacar Gaye has expressed optimism that the profile of the transitional leader, Alexandre Ferdinand Nguendet, and the assistance of the international community can ensure free, credible and democratic elections.
[Photo: Chadian Soldiers deployed to keep peace in C.A.R. Credit: Getty Images]