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Central African Republic Modern History

The French colony of the Central African Republic became an independent nation in 1960 with David Dacko as self-proclaimed president. Since then, the country has been characterized by political turmoil, coups, economic mismanagement and poverty. In the 2000s, a series of rebel movements also started a revolt against the government in Bangui.

In 1962, President Dacko introduced one-party rule. Four years later, his cousin, Army commander Jean Bédel Bokassa, took power in a coup and was appointed president for life.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Central African Republic. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

In 1976, Bokassa proclaimed the Central African Empire. His own coronation to the emperor cost a quarter of that year's state budget. Over time, the regime became increasingly oppressive and resistance to it grew. A deposed prime minister, Ange-Félix Patassé, formed the opposition group Central African People's Liberation Movement (MLPC) which in July 1979 carried out a bloody coup. The takeover was carried out with some other political groups and with decisive support from France, which until then had supported Bokassa.

Dacko now became president for the second time and multi-party systems were introduced, but Dacko was forced in 1981 to hand over power to General André Kolingba. This started a new period of dictatorship, but the country's economic problems caused the resistance to Kolingba to grow soon. Ange-Félix Patassé made a failed coup attempt in 1982 and fled to Togo with French help.

Contemporary History of Central African RepublicNew one-party rule

By a new constitution the following year, the one-party power was reintroduced. Recurrent regime-critical demonstrations led to riots in 1990, which forced the regime to reintroduce multi-party systems. When the presidential elections were held in 1993, Ange-Félix Patassé won. It was only after threats from France of withdrawal assistance that Kolingba gave up and resigned. A new constitution was adopted in 1995 which gave the president great powers of power.

The Patassé government soon had major problems with the country's poor economy. It was unable to pay wages to military and other civil servants, which led to strikes and riots within the army from 1996 to 1997. The riots were defeated by French soldiers and tens of thousands of residents fled the fighting. In 1997, a peace agreement was signed which gave the insurgents amnesty. A unifying government was formed and in 1998 the UN deployed a peacekeeping force, called Minurca.

Despite continued economic downturn and corruption charges, Patassé won the 1999 presidential election.

In 2000, Minurca was withdrawn as the situation appeared to have stabilized. But already the following year, new unrest broke out, again as a result of missing wages to government employees. In May 2001, Kolingba attempted to carry out a coup that was defeated by President Patassé with the help of Libyan soldiers.

The next coup attempt came in November of that year. It was led by Army Chief François Bozizé. Once again, Patassé could remain with Libyan help. Bozizé fled to Chad, from where his soldiers made raids into the Central African Republic.

A new coup attempt by Bozizé in the fall of 2002 was averted with the help of both Libya and a Congolese rebel group.

Following this coup attempt, a regional peace force was installed in the country to protect President Patassé, but the force could not prevent Bozizé from finally taking power in a new coup in March 2003.

Chad sent soldiers to secure the change of power. In April of that year, a transitional government was formed. Bozizé promised payouts to government employees who have not been paid for more than two years.

New constitution and elections

In December 2004, a majority of citizens voted in favor of a new constitution. It meant that the president's term of office was shortened from six to five years, which would strengthen the position of the prime minister and parliament.

In the 2005 presidential election, Bozizé's main opponent Ange-Félix Patassé was banned from running for candidacy and Bozizé won by a good margin.

Through the parliamentary elections, which were held at the same time, Bozizé's position of power was strengthened as the newly formed Bozizétrogna alliance National Unity Movement Kwa Na Kwa became the largest party coalition and could control the parliament.

But François Bozizé's takeover of the government meant no stabilization of the country. Public servants carried out new strikes because they did not receive the salaries the president promised.

Several resistance groups, the largest of which was the Union of Democratic Forces Unity (in French abbreviated to UFDR), resorted to weapons in 2004 in the northwestern part of the country. The UDFR consisted of former supporters of President Bozizé. They originally came from Chad and had participated in the coup in 2003 but did not think they had been rewarded enough for their efforts. Other rebels from the north also revolted.

Struggles were fought in 2005 and 2006. In the autumn of 2006, UFDR took several cities near the Sudanese border. The Bozizé government accused Sudan of intervening and pleading for help from France.

Counter-offensive and new rebellion

With French military support, the army went against the offensive and in December 2006 it had taken back all the cities. At the same time, another rebel group, the People's Army for the Restoration of the Republic and Democracy (APRD), launched an insurgency in the northwest. The core of the APRD was made up of people serving in the overthrown President Patassé's guard force.

In the spring of 2007, some 220,000 Central Africans had fled the violence in the north according to the UN. About a third had fled to Chad or Cameroon, while the rest were on the run inland.

During Libyan mediation, a peace agreement was signed between the government and several rebel groups in 2007, but the agreements did not hold and the fighting continued to varying degrees.

In September 2007, the UN again sent an international peacekeeping force to the Central African Republic and Chad, Minurcat. The mission was to protect civilians, both in the Central African Republic and Chad. The task force also had the task of training police officers and offering police licenses to aid organizations. Minurcat consisted of approximately 5,200 soldiers from the EU, mainly France, and 300 UN-staffed police.

In February 2008, the EU also sent a peace force Eufor Chad/RCA of 3,700 men to Chad and the Central African Republic. The soldiers came mainly from France, but also from Sweden and other EU countries. The EUFOR force stayed as agreed for one year. In March 2009, Minurcat took over EUFOR's mandate.

In June 2008, a new peace agreement was signed with APRD and UFDR, whose soldiers were to disarm and get help to return to ordinary life. The dialogue continued in December the same year and in January 2009 a unifying government was formed, where the leaders of the APRD and UFDR each received a ministerial post. But the peace process was interrupted by new fighting. In February 2009, the city of Ndélé was taken in the north by a newly formed rebel group called the Patriotic Association for Justice and Peace (CPJP), and in March, an outbreak group from the UFDR announced that they had taken up arms.

Minurcat is withdrawn

President Bozize's government was dissatisfied with Minurcat's presence in the country. The government wanted free space for its own armed forces in the northeast. The government in Chad also wanted to remove the UN force from the area. Minurcat was withdrawn in November 2010 and just over a week later the fighting between government forces and rebels intensified.

The general elections that would have been held in April 2010 were carried out in early 2011. Several smaller opposition groups announced that they were thinking of boycotting the elections because they suspected that they would not go right. In the first round of the January presidential election, five candidates stood, including President Bozizé and former President Ange-Félix Patassé, who had returned from exile.

According to official results, Bozizé already won the presidential election by 64 percent of the vote. Patassé received 21 percent. The turnout was 54 percent, significantly lower than in the 2005 election.

Even before the results were presented, three of the presidential candidates accused Bozizé of electoral fraud, and international election observers noted that a number of irregularities had taken place. However, that did not prevent Bozizé from staying in power.

In the parliamentary elections, the Bozizet-led party alliance National Assembly Movement Kwa Na Kwa received 61 of the 105 seats in Parliament and thus its own majority.

Struggles between government forces and various rebel groups continued to flare up while almost equally regular peace talks were being held - sometimes accompanied by peace agreements that were rarely held. Clashes between different ethnic groups in some cities contributed to the instability.

Séléka overthrows Bozizé

Disappointment that the government did not live up to its promises in previous peace agreements and the deteriorating situation in the northern part of the country led to defectors from the CPJP, UFDR and another rebel group, the Patriotic Collection for the Rescue of Society (Convention Patriotique du Salut du Kodro, CPSK), formed a new movement called Séléka in the fall of 2012. The members of the movement came mainly from the Muslim minority (see also Political system).

In December, Séléka quickly moved south towards Bangui, taking control of a number of important cities and roads. The government in vain appealed to France and the United States for military assistance. Although France sent 400 men, their only task was to protect French and other Europeans.

On March 23, 2013, Séléka entered the capital after hard fighting and President Bozizé fled abroad. Séléka, who was now reported to be mastering about three quarters of the country, plundered and killed indiscriminately in Bangui and other cities.

Séléka's leader Michel Djotodia appointed himself new president and shortly thereafter repealed the constitution and dissolved the parliament. Djotodia thus became the country's first president, originating in the northeastern parts.

The rebel takeover of power was condemned by both the UN and the African Union (AU).

At a summit in Chad, a number of African leaders and representatives of the regional cooperation organization CEEAC (in English ECCAS) decided that the country should be led by a transitional council with representatives from many political parties until new elections were held. At the first Council meeting, Djotodia was elected leader of the Council and thus became interim president, which was accepted by the CEEAC.

Christians against Muslims

The situation in the country continued to be chaotic. Séléka was charged with looting, murder, torture and rape. Above all, the Christian population was affected.

New battles were reported in August and September between the former rebels and loyal groups with the overthrown president. Spontaneously organized militias and youths who received weapons from military loyal to Bozizé fought Séléka in tough street battles.

In mid-September, President Djotodia decided to dissolve Séléka. Some of the former rebels were inducted into the new army. But most refused to lay down their weapons and continued to attack civilians. In many places, Christian-dominated self-defense militia was formed, so-called "anti-balaka" (see Political system).

At that point, the conflict was no longer about military operations to achieve concrete political goals. It had gone into indiscriminate revenge campaigns, especially between gangs of anti-Balaka and former Séléka rebels. Anti-Balaka also attacked civilian Muslims and traders in revenge for the other side's abuse.

Defenseless people in villages and neighborhoods were murdered. Even children are killed. Countless women were subjected to rape. Homes, mosques and churches were burned down and entire villages were destroyed. The African peacekeeping forces that existed in the country were not enough to protect the residents against the violence in cities and villages.

Thousands of people therefore sought protection in a camp at the capital's airport where there was a French troop force.

The majority of the Muslim population of about 120,000 people in Bangui were forced to flee the capital, under the aegis of soldiers of an African peacekeeping force located in the country.

In December, the African peacekeepers were transformed into a new force under the name Misca (Mission International de Soutien ŕ la Centrafrique), which after reinforcements would consist of 3,600 men.

Warning for genocide

The conflict had now been characterized by ethnic cleansing, and the UN warned that the situation was about to degenerate into genocide. In December, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution mandating Misca to take "all necessary measures" to restore order in the country. France also sent more soldiers to the Central African Republic. The French force now amounted to 1,600 men.

At the beginning of 2014, the UN estimated that nearly 960,000 people had fled the violence. By that time, anti-balaka had taken over in the battles against the former Sélékarebels who fled the capital to their bases in the north. Thus, the field was open to anti-Balaka to carry out revenge campaigns against former members of Séléka and against Muslims in general.

It was now obvious to the outside world that no calm could be restored as long as President Michel Djotodia remained. For the majority of the population he was a detested symbol of Séléka's violent act.

In January 2014, Djotodia was called to a summit in Chad with the regional cooperation organization CEEAC (ECCAS). After a few days of pressure from the other African leaders, he agreed to resign and move to Benin.

After a week, the transitional council in the country had elected a new transitional president. It became Bangui Mayor Catherine Samba-Panza, a successful businesswoman who trained as a lawyer in France. Samba-Panza was a Christian but was generally considered to be above the bitter political struggles.

2003

March

Bozizé takes power in a coup

When President Ange-Félix Patassé is abroad, rebel leader François Bozizé takes the capital and proclaims himself president. Parliament is dissolved and a transitional government is set up.

 
 

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