AfricaLink on Air – 23 February 2016 [Deutsche Welle Podcast]
By Jane Ayeko-Kümmeth
When the results of the run-off in Central African Republic’s (CAR) presidential election were announced, Belmont Vieux Osee, a Central African refugee in Cameroon, must have had mixed feelings.
He had been actively campaigning on behalf of Anicet Georges Dologuele, who was defeated by Faustin Archange Touadera.
Touadera garnered more than 60 percent of the vote in the February 14 run-off, the results of which were announced on Saturday (20.02.2016).
But Belmont Vieux Osee was quick to overcome his disappointment, telling DW at the Cameroonian border town of Garoua Boulaye that he had a message for the newly-elected Touadera. “We do not want you to commit the same errors our predecessors committed. We are going to support you,” he said.
The Constitutional Court in CAR has to certify the election results within a week for them to become final.
Touadera said on Sunday he felt the “full measure” of CAR’s problems and would be in a hurry to restore unity.
That will be a huge challenge in a country where sectarian fighting has forced nearly half a million people to flee to neighboring states and has left half the population with limited or no access to food.
Prepared to return home
300,000 of those refugees have sought sanctuary in Cameroon, like Belmont Vieux Osee. Another is Konzizah Inock who fled the town of Bockaraka in CAR two years ago and now lives in the eastern Cameroonian town of Bertoua. He told DW he would be prepared to return home if the president-elect forms a government to national unity to stop the jockeying for power, which is all too often the cause of unrest in CAR. There are always wars in CAR because people are power hungry, he said. “If the president has understood this, then I think he will succeed.”
Rebel groups still control much of the country. They have hijacked what remains of the economy outside the capital Bangui, manning checkpoints and levying illegal taxes. Loosening warlords’ grip on the country will require disarming their men, a process that typically sees donors bankrolling costly demobilization programs which essentially pay fighters to hand over their guns.
The new CAR leadership will need funds to rebuild the army, redeploy civil servants and to begin to reconstruct a crumbling infrastructure.
The state has been disintegrating over decades and the once lucrative cotton and coffee sectors have evaporated. Development of gold, diamond and uranium resources has been hobbled by an endless cycle of coups and rebellions that have seen major investors give the former French colony a wide berth.
French nuclear energy group Areva pulled out of its Bakouma project in 2012 during the exploration phase after it was attacked by gunmen.
The present crisis, from which it is hoped the country is now starting to recover, began 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels toppled President Francois Bozize. Their abuses provoked a backlash from Christian so-called anti-balaka militias. Thousands have died in the subsequent violence, and a fifth of the population fled their homes. A UN-backed transitional administration was formed to lead the country to democratic governance.
Not all CAR refugees in Cameroon want to return home. Djodiar Kato, told DW that he and others had fought in wars alongside Bozize and “are not sure of our safety.”
Bozize’s candidacy at the presidential elections was rejected by the Constitutional Court. Now that Dologuele, who represented Bozize’s party, had been defeated Kato believes “it is better for us to remain in hiding here [Cameroon]. We are not sure we shall find peace if we return to our home country.”
CAR lies second from the bottom of the UN Human Development Index.
Jean-Christophe Carret, country manager for the World Bank, which places an emphasis on supporting failed states, said any attempt to reverse decades of decline will take years but there is hope that the elections will mean a new beginning.
“The international community will not solve Central African Republic’s problems for it. Maybe with the new regime there will be an opportunity to start from scratch and try something different,” he said.
Paul Melly, Associate Fellow of the Africa Program at Chatham House in the UK, told DW the CAR now had a president “with a clear and unchallengeable mandate from the people.” This would help Mr Touadera “take difficult decisions and make the awkward choices” that would be needed “to reestablish a stable economic base and persuade the remaining leaders of armed groups to join a process of reconciliation and peace-building.”