NewsCentral AfricaTasks for CAR's new President


Posted on Tuesday, 28 June 2016 14:06

Tasks for CAR's new President

By Anthony Fouchard in Bangui

Faustin-Archange Touadéra. Photo©Alessandro Bianchi/AP/SIPAFaustin-Archange Touadéra, the new president of Central African Republic has to deal with rebel fighters and his new allies.

One of the top priorities of the new government of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra is to rebuild. He was elected with 63% of the vote, beating Anicet Georges.

Dologuélé in the second round of the vote on 14 February. But before that, Touadéra's government is focused on "a true policy of reconciliation". The day after his victory was announced, he proclaimed: "I will not make any decisions based on social, religious or ethnic origins."

Touadéra will need a firm grip to maintain his voice and his choices

That is something that transitional president Catherine Samba-Panza had said in 2014 and failed to deliver on. Over the past three years, the foundations of trust between communities has weakened.

The majority of the Central African Republic's (CAR) Muslim population has fled the country. Tens of thousands who have remained live in enclaves across the country that are protected by UN peacekeepers.

While Taoudéra has not yet proved his reconciliation credentials, he has shown that he can be a uniter. He rallied 23 presidential candidates from the first round – including heavyweights like former prime minister Martin Ziguélé – to his side.

One of Dologuélé's allies who requested anonymity explains: "There are strong personalities and political aspirations that are at odds. Touadéra will need a firm grip to maintain his voice and his choices."

Touadéra is not known for his strong stands, but will need some in order to distance himself from former President François Bozizé.

Oumarou, who lives in the PK5 neighbourhood of Bangui, explains: "Touadéra is the intellectual heir of Bozizé. You cannot be prime minister for five years without supporting the president's policies. I fear he does not have the ability to unite us, but we will see."

In late March, the chatter among the political class focused on the question of who would become prime minister. Touadéra has not yet shown his hand. To name a premier, he is going to need a majority in parliament, as most successful legislative candidates ran as independents.

Léa Doumta, the vice-president of the Conseil National de Transition, says that appearances can be deceiving: "Are they really independent? No, they were supported by candidates who now are now behind Touadéra. His parliamentary majority – he has it already." She adds: "You should not underestimate the new president. He is discreet, but he knows all of the political class. It is his biggest advantage."

On the economic front, the mining and agriculture sectors have slowed to a near halt. CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world and the new government says it intends to fight endemic corruption in public finances.

This is the former mathematics professor's strong suit. Roland Marchal, an academic focused on Central Africa, explains: "Touadéra is well liked by CAR's civil servants as it was while he was prime minister that salaries were paid through the banking system as a means to ensure that they were paid regularly."

Sorting out public finance will not be enough to calm tensions. Once the country's armed groups were chased out of Bangui, they took up leading roles in some lucrative trades in far-flung parts of CAR.

One example is Ali Darass, a leader of the Union pour la Paix en Centrafrique, which is an arm of the former rebel group Séléka. He is now taxing coffee producers, gold miners and cattle traders in exchange for armed protection.

In the centre of the country, where Darass operates, the UN mission is nowhere near as strong as the former rebels. During the election, Darass said he "will always be there to assure the security of the population. The new government will have to negotiate the conditions for my departure."

As such, the process of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration will be a key area for the government over the next few months. ●


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