They say history has a way of repeating itself. Ten years ago, the very same headlines we are reading today were topping most papers in the press. “Central African Republic: Rebel leader seizes power, suspends constitution” Irin News. Then; the reaction of the African Union was the same; they ‘strongly condemned’ Bozize’s actions. The then Chairperson of the AU, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, said the coup undermined the continent’s efforts to achieve sustainable development. After inordinate delays, in 2005, an election was finally held, legitimising the coup government. The formation of that government was immediately followed by the continuation of arbitrary arrests, denial of fair trials, use of excessive force by security agents, abductions, torture and physical abuse, the use of child soldiers, suppression of freedoms of the press, expression, assembly, and association-which had been the order of the day from the date the coup took place.
I look at the political history of the Central African Republic and wonder, “Have they now developed an unwritten rule of a maximum term of ten years of autocratic rule given that the currently deposed leader, Francoise Bozize, also ousted his predecessor Ange-Felix Patasse in the same manner in 2003 after 10 years of repressive rule.
A myriad of rhetorical questions keep floating in my head. What drives the poorest of the poorest, countries into so much conflict? Why can’t they ever achieve peace? Don’t they realise they need peace if they are ever going to have a stable economy? Why are they always fighting? Do the people of the Central African Republic deserve the leadership they keep getting? Does any of us on the African continent? Where are we going wrong as African citizens to keep getting leaders who do not hold our interests at heart? What are we doing wrong to keep getting these narcissist egomaniacs as the leaders of our countries?
The Central African Republic has been plunged into yet another unpredictable era of instability by the coup leaders. Will they be any better than the people they have ousted-only time will tell. The African Union has given this type of change of government a name, this change that usually doesn’t really change anything besides increasing the misery of the citizens. They call them unconstitutional changes of government. The AU condemns these types of changes, they impose sanctions on the leaders of these changes, they engage the leaders in dialogue to try and facilitate transitions to democratic rule- but is this enough? Will it ever be enough?
The Central African Republic is not really a poor country. They have large deposits of uranium, gold, oil and diamonds. They have wide spans of arable land, stretches of lumber and abundant hydro-power.
Why, have they remained in the top ten of Africa’s poorest countries?
Could it be the good governance deficit; because if a leader who came to power through a coup in 2003 is also leaving through a military coup in 2013, then this must be a clear sign that even after 10 years there haven’t been significant institutional reforms to allow for legal and smooth transition of power?
Could it be the remnants of the war; given that the CAR has not had significant stability since its independence from the French in 1960?
But what fuels the conflict?
Is it greed, with different sides thinking that the only way to gain access to the wealth that this country has is through acquisition of power and political influence?
Could it be external influence? It appears the Central African Republic had its independence declared in 1960 yet the struggle for independence continues. Bozize began a reign of terror 10 years ago, a period that he began ushered by a strong backing from the French. Repression, authoritarianism, nepotism, corruption and underdevelopment were the order of the day, so one would stop and ask, why the French would commit their funds, their troops and efforts to protect Bozize’s government, if democracy, good governance, development and prosperity is what they [as members of the European Union] want for the people of the Republic.
Franceafrique a friend calls it; the continued interference of the French government in the politics of its former colonies- a handpicking of leadership, a sponsorship of rebel groups to unseat “unwanted leaders”, a total disregard to the idea of democracy and good governance.
All I can say is “Cry my beloved continent,” as the peoples of Africa continue the struggle for true independence, for peace and for development.
Meanwhile the media is in a frenzy:
- “Bozize ouster is latest power grab in Africa’s “phantom state” Reuters
- “President Francois Bozize missing as Central African Republic capital seized by rebels” The Australian
- “Francois Bozize flees CAR capital as rebels move in” Scotsman.com
- “Francois Bozize, Central African Republic President, Overthrown By Rebels” The Huffington Post
- “Looting and Gunfire in Captured Central African Republic Capital” Al Jazeera
- “Central African Republic’s Francois Bozize flees as rebels invade capital” South China Morning Post
- “Central African Republic: President Bozize flees Bangui” BBC News Africa
- “Central African Republic rebels seize capital and force president to flee” The Guardian UK
- “Britons told to leave Central African Republic after coup” The Telegraph
I wish they had had the same enthusiasm when Ghana had it’s smooth transition. As I said before, When it happens in Africa….