Tuesday Platform

April 30, 2013

Africa in the Central African Republic politics

Africa in the Central African Republic politics

President Goodluck Jonathan (5th left), and other African leaders with the President of France, Nicholas Sarkozy, at the opening ceremony of the 25th Africa-France summit in Nice, France, yesterday. Photo: State House.

By John Amoda
TO appreciate the title of this news analysis a map has been generated. This map is a geopolitical map of the Central African Republic, CAR.

It shows the geopolitical boundary of the CAR. Within this boundary, are located the primary neighbours of the CAR with shared boundaries: namely Chad, Sudan, Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo; five countries in all.

CAR1Then there are the secondary neighbours with shared boundaries with the primary neighbours, namely: Gabon, Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Egypt, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, nine countries; CAR’s primary and secondary neighbours are 15 countries, that is more than a quarter of the countries in Africa.

Events in this small country impacts the primary neighbours directly and the secondary neighbours through spill-over. Through this map we can see that the CAR is not a faraway distant land. The geopolitical boundary is the boundary of refugee outflows determined by the civil wars in the CAR. This is lesson number one. Africa is very much in CAR and CAR is in Africa. What happens in CAR is of societal relevance to her primary and secondary neioghbours.

Second lesson to be learnt is appreciating the knee-jerk on-the-shelf-routine expression of concern by the international community whenever there is a violent change of government. No attention is paid on daily basis to the politics of the society that foster violent non-constitutional change of government.

The assumption is that constitutional governance is the norm and violent change of government is the aberration. So the African Union temporarily suspends the CAR from the organisation. On April 3, 2013, African leaders meeting on the CAR crisis in Chad declared they did not recognise Djotodia as President, and they proposed the formation of an inclusive transitional council and the holding of new election in 18 months rather than three years as announced by Djotodia.

The problem with this advice is the formulaic response to violent change of government by the international community.

Their advice is premised on the assumption that election of governments guarantees their stability and their legitimacy; and no thought is given to the record of President Bozize’s government, whether he governed constitutionally or not.

Bad governments are not ostracized or punished for their policy and when rebels seize power, they are regarded as dirty governors that can be made clean and respectable through the legitimation of election in the conflict situation culminating in the violent change of government.

Because it is forgotten that Francois Bozize himself came to power violently in 2003, they prescribe electoral constitutional government when the norm has been otherwise. The new warrior-rebel President quickly accepted the condition prescribed for transforming him from rebel predator into a respected President.

“Speaking on April 4 Information Minister, Christophe Gazan Betty, said that Djotodia had accepted the proposals of the African leaders; suggesting that Djotodia would remain in office if he were to be elected to head the transitional council.

Djotodia consequently signed a decree on April 6 for the formation of a transitional council, composed of 97 members, that would act as a transitional parliament. The council was tasked with electing an interim president to serve during an 18-month transitional period leading to new elections.”

Now consider this scenario. The 10-year government of Francois Bozize has been militarily overthrown and the military and police chiefs have pledged allegiance to the Caesar of Bangui, Djotodia. He is told he can keep the office he captured by war if he will submit himself to an election which his government will arrange and supervise. If he did not become President by election how is he going to be removable from office by elections?

Once more as in 2003, the international community prescribes the legitimation of violent capture of power through a post-victory election. CAR is thus set up for another round of rule by electorally legitimated warlords. This was the prescription to the Malian sack of an elected government- an injunction to take the election shower that would legitimize their regime.

To prescribe elections once again for the Central African Republic that has not known peace since the formal end of the Bush War (2004-2007) is to reveal the attitude of the international community to a citizenry that has known nothing but Hobbes’ state of war, wherein life has been actually short, nasty and brutal. One cannot but be dismayed by the callous cynicism of the international community towards the African citizenry habituated to existence in condition of societal anarchy and civil war conflicts.

Peter Biro in his piece titled “Central African Republic: A Deepening Crisis” chronicled the societal condition within which Francois Bozize ruled in Bangui. I quote from his article.

“When the long-running civil war in the Central African Republic, CAR, ended in 2007, observers hoped that peace would usher in a new era of economic recovery and development. Instead, the country already one of the world’s poorest, faces a devastating humanitarian crisis that threatens to plunge the population even deeper into misery.

According to the International Rescue Committee, large swatches of the country lack clean water and adequate food supplies, while suffering from high infant and maternal mortality rates, soaring rates of HIV infection and inadequate healthcare. Last year, the United Nations ranked the CAR 178th out of 179 countries in “human development”- an index that measures a country’s ability to guarantee its citizens a long and healthy life, access to education and a decent standard of living.

Moreover, decades of misrule, fighting between the government and rebels, and the ongoing menace of banditry have left people weakened and extremely vulnerable, said Boris Varnitzky, the IRC country director in CAR”. Peter Biro wrote the above in the context of post-conflict peace-building! The 2004-2007 war is a war in CAR’s politics of violent change of government.

The 2004-2007 war was the context for the 2012 war in the politics where change of government continues to be by war. This politics is an issue-less politics where governments exist to negotiate deals with foreign miners of the country’s natural wealth, especially its diamond deposits.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted that the new war lords have not presented any vision for their regime. “They are not communicating a plan to invest in the country, to invest in the people, to expand education, to expand social service to the countryside; the structure of the government, the ministers, it’s the same pool of people they are drawing from”.

Preceeding regimes, including that of Bozize governed as predators who have conquered the society treated as a spoil. This same careless and ruthless governance regime is what is on offer by the New Rulers of the Central African Republic. And the despicable shame of it all is that the CAR is not an embarrassment to the international community. Why? because CAR is typical of the norm in Africa.