Tuesday Platform

May 28, 2013

Rebels and govt forces: The case of CAR

Rebels and govt forces: The case of CAR

Francois Bozize

By John Amoda
THE Ten Year Government of Francis Bozize fell to rebel incursion like a pack of cards. What does that tell us? It tells us that a straw cannot be transformed into steel by reinforcing it with steel, with bayonets.

In the course of the recent war for the seizure of power, Chad, Gabon, Cameroon, Angola, South Africa and Republic of Congo sent troops to help the Bozize government defeat the rebel forces advancing towards Bangui, the seat of government. Why was this not sufficient to secure Bozize’s hold on power?

The fall of Bozize’s government provides the answer. General Jean-Felix Akaga, commander of the Economic Community of Central African States’ Multinational Force of Central Africa said that Bangui was “fully secured” by the troops from its MICOPAX peacekeeping mission, stating that reinforcement would arrive soon.

The General’s assertions turned out to be cold comfort for President Bozize. The President’s appeal on 27 December to the international community for help, especially to France and the United States fell on deaf ears; it yielded no result.

The French President François Hollande bluntly rejected the appeal, saying that French troops in the country and reinforcement of the same would be used to protect French nationals in the CAR and not to defend Bozize’s government.

The U.S military only made preparation for the evacuation of American citizens and other nationals. Why was the security of Bozize’s government limited to the ability of the Bozize’s military to defeat the rebels’ forces?

Why were the protesters at the French embassy 26 December 2012 who hurled stones, burning tires and tearing down the French flag, chose to protest French policy rather than take up arms to defend Bozize’s government? The protesters were pro-government elite loyalists who have lived in Bangui’s luxury in the midst of a country notorious for the poverty of the citizenry.

The citizens of the Central African Republic had been treated as subjects by successive government since the formal end of French colonization. The Government for the elites of Bangui was the “city-state” and the country remained structurally in subjecthood. The Government and its Governors could be said to be the Central African Republic.

And as long as the security apparatus could put down factional rivals to the President and crush rebels organized for the sole purpose of being the successor governors of the same Government there was stability in a country where the people had remained demobilized by colonial and post colonial conditions of poverty.

The territory and the minerals it contains are acquired as spoils of war. The people are part of the terrain of the battle between rebels in government and rebels seeking to succeed those in government. According to Varnitzky, the country director of the international Rescue Committee: “Mortality among the population is very high. In rural areas, there are no ambulances or public transport.

People who are sick walk long distance to get care because the vast majority of the population live more than 10 kilometres (6miles) from a health centre. And even if they reach a health centre, it is unlikely they will see a doctor- there is only one of every 15,000 people.

“The rural poor when they receive aid, receive it from foreign non-governmental organizations like the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC has provided drinking water for some 30,000; rehabilitated 2,500 houses and trained volunteer teachers who serve some 3,500 children”. Without these acts of charity the rural citizenry of CAR have to do without these basic necessities.

All these sufferings  in a country ranked in 2011 the 11th among the world leading producer of rough diamond by volume and 12th by value. Mining accounts for 2.8 percent of the gross domestic product. Undeveloped mineral resources include copper, graphite, limonite, iron ore, kyanite, manganese, monazite, quartz, rutile, salt, tin, and uranium. On January 31, (2012) Axmin Inc of Canada announced the completion of an updated study (BFS on gold mining) for its 100 percent- owned Passendro gold project”.

These mineral resources are important to the multinationals and the Government of the CAR. As it is tragically routine in Africa, the rural poor live and die atop of grounds covering wealth that could transform their lives, if only democracy works for them rather than against them. In this condition is any wonder that the security of government rests on success in the business of government capturing wars. The fall of Bozize’s government is a warning to other African Presidents who depend on their military for their security.

Within months a government that was not rooted in popularly mobilised support, had its  military routed by a five confederal alliance of rebel forces known as Seleka CPSK-CPJP-UFDR (Seleka means “union” in the Sango language) captured major towns in the central and eastern region of the country.

The rebel offensive began in earnest 10 December 2012. On 15 December, rebel forces took Bamingui, a town about 120km (75miles) from N’dele in a direct line towards Bangui, the seat of Government. Three days later, they advanced to Bria, an important diamond mining town. In response to Francois Bozize’s appeal for help, the President of Chad, Idriss Deby pledged to send 2,000 troops to put down the so-called rebellion.

The  first Chadian troops arrived on 18 December to reinforce the CAR contingent in KagaBandoro, in preparation for a counter-attack on N’Dele. However, help from troops contributed by Chad, South Africa, Angola and the multinational Force of Central Africa to secure the capital proved ineffective to halt the Seleka’s march to Bangui. Kabo the major centre for transport between Chad and CAR fell to the rebels December 19. Four days later, December 23, Bambari, the country’s third largest town was taken by Seleka forces.

On Christmas day, December 25, Kaga-Bandoro fell. On December 26, Seleka reached Damara. The CAR’s minister for territorial administration requested to no avail for France’s intervention to quell the rebellion. On 27 December Bozize asked the international community for help, an appeal directed to France and the United States; both chose to stay on the sidelines to watch the now inevitable overthrow of Bozize’s administration completed by the rebels taking of Bangui. Government’s counterattack against rebel forces in Bambari failed to halt the rebel’s march to Bangui.

Meanwhile, the foreign ministers in the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) promised more troops from the Multinational Force for Central Africa (FOMAC) to support the 560 members of the MICOPAX mission already on ground. Bozize’s Government found no salvation from foreign forces reinforcing Government forces.

In Bangui, the U.S Airforce acknowledging the imminent collapse of the Government undertook the evacuation of American nationals, with the Red Cross following the American example.

On 30 December, when the end was imminent, president Bozize agreed to a national unity government, with members of Seleka coalition, after meeting with African Union Chairperson, Thomas Yayi Boni, adding that the CAR government was ready to begin peace talks ‘without condition and without delay’.

The question to be asked these leaders is this? What lesson did they learn from the defeat of Bozize’s military by Seleka? What lessons did they learn from Seleka’s victories? What lessons did they learn from the neutrality of Central African Republic citizenry?

What lessons did they learn from the failure of their military interventions in the CAR and from the refusal of France and the US to intervene to secure Bozize’s Government? African leaders rule over societies incubating rebel groups that have yet to do their own Seleka.

When these Selekas embark on their match toward their Banguis can the military of these Governments prevail over the Selekas?