May 10, 2010, 2:40 PM
The resignation of the interim President of the Central Africa Republic (CAR), Michel Dijotodia, is a gargantuan victory for democracy in Africa.
Since last year news of grisly incidents of clashes between the rebels Seleka, a largely Muslim group led by Michel Djotodia and government forces, were disturbing.
The fighting took a different twist when the Seleka militias succeeded in their efforts to depose the precarious government of then-President Francois Bozize, who fled for his life in neighboring Cameroun bringing an end to his decade old regime.
The ouster of Francois Bozize spelled the shift of the tectonic plate in CAR to the Muslims. A predominately Christian country, CAR previous presidents were all Christians. After decades of enduring marginalization and brutality, which reached its peak during the era of Bozize. Muslim Seleka rebels revolted against the central government capturing key strategic towns. After the ouster of François Bozize, the Christians formed a movement called the anti-balaka. For a country that is awash with lethal weapon and sharing boarder with restive Democratic Republic of Congo, the stage was set for a brutal massacre. The ensuing clashes between the Seleka and the anti-balaka movement were very brutal which spiraled towards genocide. Churches and mosques were used as shelter for civilians depending on which religious faith they adhere to. The capital Bangui and Bossingua were hot spots for violence. In a scale compared only to the Rwandan genocide in the historic annals of the African continent, 5,000 thousand people were displaced and thousands murdered in cold blood because they belongs to the wrong religion.
Belated respond from the international community
For a country as cleft as the CAR the international community should know better - especially the colonial power France- that the country is divided along religious lines and that the relationship between the two groups are tumultuous at best and at worst frosty. But they pay no heed to alarms raised by thinktanks. The responsibly to protect, a buzz word in the international community, was disregarded bring once again memories of the build-up to the Rwandan genocide that claimed the lives of 800,000 Rwandese.
It took the Deputy leader of the United Nation (UN) Secretary General, Jan Eliasson, to focus international attention to the, as he puts it “massacre”, occurring in the CAR. The United States responded by sending their representative at the UN Samantra Power to assess the level of insecurity fast-hand. Her analysis of the situation sound apocalyptic. That was the time that the international community knew the huge scale of chaos they have to deal with. Words like “full-scale war”, “degenerating into genocide”, tottering on the on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe” were all link to events unraveling in the CAR. The UN and African Union were muted. The hesitation and the total inability of the AU to deal with its own crisis sometimes leave me with the belief that the AU eminent group of personalities and Africa Peer Review Mechanism, the body comprising of Africa’s proven urbane former statesmen, which is charged with the responsibilities to assess potential conflicts zones in Africa, as a dysfunctional body. From the post election violence in Ivory Coat to the crisis in Mali and South Sudan the body got it all wrong. This a body comprising of the former President of Mozambique Joamkim Chassano, Festus Morgae ex President of Botswana and a recipient of the much- coveted Mo Ibrahim Prize for good governance. Judging from their appalling result, it seems their conflict prevention prism is clouded and they have to sharpen it and make it clearer. I hate to label the AU as a tootles bull-dog or tiger or lion whatever its critics called it. But I have no doubt in my mind that such spectacular failures to pinpoint where the next conflict in Africa would emerge will only serve to strengthen the hands of the critics of the AU further making it a butt of savage jokes. Their failures to tackle Africa’s problems have led former colonial master to decide the destiny of Africa in far-flung buildings like the Elysee Palace as the seat of the French government is called or Number 10 Downing Street in the Case of Britain.
For political commentators who were following the events unfolding in CAR, it should not come as a surprise that President Michel Djotodia was going to step down as president sooner or later. When the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius embarked on his shuttle diplomacy in Africa before the Christmas period we don’t need it to be Christmas to know when we are having a turkey in Central Africa Republic. Mr., or let me give him his befitting French title Monsieur Fabius, visited all the important countries in Central Africa including Cameroun, Chad and Gabon. The message he brought to the leaders of these countries was crystal clear: Michal Djotodia has to go. President Holland, who was voted into power to salvage the damaged image of France on the African continent cannot accept what is happening in the CAR, I heard him say. He went back to the Quai d’ Orsay, which is the name given to the French Foreign ministry, to macro-mange the resignation of Michel Dijotodia. The plot was simple: the president of Chad, Idriss Derby, whose country is sharing boarder and his forces accused of adding the Muslim Seleka in their battle against the anti-balaka, was asked to convene a regional meeting of the Community of Central Africa States and to force Dijotodia to resign. This was known to Djotodia himself even before the game start playing out in public. This must have been grimed news to him. It was all drama when international news cable correspondents in Bangui were asking him this question. A defiant Dijotodia shrugged this question saying in a terse statement in French in what can roughly be interpreted as “everything is ok”. In actual fact the game was up and the Elysee palace cannot bear the humiliation of his forces brutality anymore. Remember the France president is facing enormous challenges at home. His popularity rating is the worst compared to previous French leaders since the start of the 5th Republic, unemployment his stubbornly high, neur vour rich French are fleeing the country to escape his draconian tax system, the radical opposition Front National led by Marie Le Pen incessant rising in poll after poll and to cap it all the sex scandal that he is embroiled in with the exquisite French actor Julie Gayet. In is all a rough patch for a President that was once called “Monsieur Normal”in the infancy state of his presidency.
I cannot help but shook my head as all this formality was going on. In could imagined Lauren Fabius and President Holland sitting at the Elysee palace making last-ditched attempts to seal the game. African countries are so much important for successive French government, be it socialist or Popular Movement Party. The African bureau is based in the president office, Elysee Place, not the Quai d’Orsay, the Foreign Ministry. They have the Middle Bureau, Europe and North America and Latin America all at the Quai d’Osary. The architect of this plan was the now frail, Jean Foccart. When it comes to Africa he was always at hand to advise French leaders. From the embarrassing saga of Valery Giscard d’Estaing diamond scandal with the oaf erstwhile leader of CAR Jean Bedel Bokassa to Charles De Gulles hawkish foreign policy towards Algeria, the master, as he is called, was always there pulling the strings behind-the-scene.
I am having the inkling that this time the French would get it wrong. By forcing Djotodia to resign, a big vacuum has been left. No interim government is in charge to restore stability in that country. Nicola Tingaye, the deputy president and all his cabinet was summoned in the Chadian capital, N’djamena, and force to resign as well. This is unprecedented. All ministers out of the country only to go back home stripped off their government position. One can image how bitter they would feel going back home. And most of them are fomer rebels. The anti-balaka are vowing to take the fight now to the camps of the Muslims. They should be taken very seriously as they are resplendent in their magic amulets determined to get the anger that the Seleka coalition forces have meted on them out of their chest.
The solution will be to have an interim government that will oversee an election. They can stick to the December election calendar. The appointment of Alexandra Ferdinand Nguede as interim leader is a step in the right direction. His task should be to form a broad-based coalition government and restore peace for a credible free and fair government.
The people of Central Africa Republic are sicked and tired of gun fire and war. The seething anger of the youths in that country should be transformed into a voracious appetite for learning. The politrictians should stop using the country as a political chessboard deciding its fate in far-away Paris, where most of them are staying. Where is Unge Felix Peteresee? In Paris. Where is Martin Zugelle? I can show you him in Paris. The latter is having a strong presidential ambition. I wonder whether he will be taken seriously by the CAR population.
In as much as the resignation of Dijotodia is a victory for democracy the international community should move swiftly to consolidate the democratic gains there. There is no room for higgledy-piggedly decisions. The alternative is to practice what the French called La Politique de Griboullie, named after the hapless character who sought refuge from rain by diving into the river. GOD FORBIDS.
Author: Amadou Camara, an intern at the American corner and final year political science student at the University of the Gambia