We were not able to meet with the head of state in his traditional office. However, this was not Faustin-Archange Touadéra’s fault nor that of the protocol. A piece of scaffolding, which involuntarily symbolises the CAR’s perpetual reconstruction, now blocks the entrance to Bangui’s Palais de la Renaissance. On the morning of 13 September, we held our interview a little further away, in the “ambassadors’ lounge”, the provisional headquarters of presidential activities.
Sheltered from the stifling atmosphere of the capital, which is under pressure from the international community, Touadéra spoke to us at length. The President even ended up being late for his next appointment, thus forcing the person concerned to wait in the backroom under the watchful eye of Rwandan peacekeepers.
A fervent Protestant, Touadéra is a man of few words. Criticised for his closeness to Russia, accused of having concluded mysterious agreements with the Wagner company, and shaken by accusations of abuse levelled against his army, he is aware of what his adversaries and partners expect from him. He manages to hide his wariness behind a broad smile.
You were re-elected in December 2020 when the Coalition des Patriotes pour le Changement [CPC], a rebel group that attacked Bangui the following January, had just been created. 10 months on, is the capital out of danger?
Faustin-Archange Touadéra: Thank you for putting this situation into context. Before the elections, peace was returning to the CAR. Central Africans only wanted to go to the polls and vote for their next leader. But this coalition wanted to prevent them from doing so. Worse, it set in motion a total destabilisation of the state, ended up marching on Bangui and arrived at its gates on 13 January, even infiltrating PK12 and PK9.
Fortunately, with help from our allies, we were able to repel the offensive and free the corridor that links us to Cameroon, which the CPC had blocked. The stranglehold has been loosened but, of course, the violence continues. The security forces are doing their job and carrying out sweeps in Bangui, to unmask all those who are illegally holding weapons. There is always a threat and we take it seriously.
Since January, you seem to have favoured, along with your Rwandan and Russian allies, an offensive and military option. How far are you willing to take this course of action?
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