CAR rebel chief Noureddine Adam: ‘Nothing precludes Bozizé from becoming the CPC’s leader’

By Mathieu Olivier
Posted on Wednesday, 27 January 2021 22:41

Michel Djotodia (L), leader of Central African Republic's (CAR) Seleka rebel alliance, stands beside CAR's President Francois Bozize (R) 11 January 11 2013.. REUTERS/Levis Boussougou

Earlier in his career, Nourredine Adam served as a member of the emir of Abu Dhabi’s security force, headed a security firm in the United Arab Emirates, led the rebel group Convention des Patriotes pour la Justice et la Paix and was the second-in-command of Séléka as well as the leader of the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique.

Today, Adam, a police officer by training and the son of an imam, is a central figure in the Central African Republic’s newest rebel alliance, the Coalition des Patriotes pour le Changement (CPC).

READ MORE CAR hands former Seleka leader to ICC on charges of war crimes

It is partly at Adam’s behest that CPC troops launched a series of attacks on Bangui on 13 January, with the intention of turning up the pressure on President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, whose re-election on 27 December is contested.

Did the CPC really set out to take over the capital and what are the organisation’s ties to former president François Bozizé, whose candidacy for the December elections was rejected? Does it have enough resources to hold its own against the United Nations peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, as well as Russian and Rwandan forces? And, if so, how would it rule?

Adam – who has been living in hiding between Sudan and his usual strongholds, Birao and Ndele, in northern Central African Republic – talks about his plans .

What is the CPC seeking at this time after the attacks on Bangui on 13 January?

Noureddine Adam: The CPC’s objectives haven’t changed from what was clearly stated in the Kamba-Kota declaration of 15 December 2020: we want to restore security countrywide and the sovereignty of the state over its national borders and all of its natural and economic resources, and guarantee each citizen the freedom to come and go as they please and to engage in economic activity. Simply put, our aim is to develop the country and lift its inhabitants out of poverty and insecurity.

Until now, the CPC’s strategy seemed to involve putting pressure on President Touadéra to get him to enter into talks. Has this goal changed?

No. Our actions, like those carried out by various political opposition actors, have been consistent over the past few months of 2020. We called for a broad national dialogue prior to the general elections set for 27 December 2020. We asked for inclusive, fair, transparent and democratic elections.

However, it was plain for everyone to see that the voter registration process was marred by dysfunction and that the sham election was rife with blatant irregularities and tampering, including the hiding and stuffing of ballots and the falsification of election returns.

President Touadéra, refusing to listen, has doubled down on his positions. A dialogue never took place, refugees were unable to vote and some candidates were excluded from running based on arbitrary criteria. The chaotic situation we’re dealing with today is the outcome.

READ MORE CAR: Peacekeepers regain control of Bangassou from armed rebels

Does the CPC want to take over the government?

When a regime shows that it’s unable to respect democratic principles and insists on rigging the game in order to maintain its grip on power at any cost, it’s up to the people, or at least a subset of the people, to prevent this from happening by any means necessary, whether by taking the constitutional route or, when that isn’t possible, by using force. Why shouldn’t the CPC step up to the plate?

Surely you noticed that we issued a rallying call to other armed groups, officers, non-commissioned officers and lower-ranking military personnel, as well as to all supporters of democracy, to form a broad front and take part in turning around the CAR. If we succeed, nothing will be out of reach.

Who actually leads the CPC and how are decisions about its military objectives made?

The CPC is led by a central coordination body made up of members who regularly consult with one another. The body handles decision-making and sets and signs off on strategic, political and military objectives collectively. The overall organisational structure will be announced when the time is right and communicated to the news media and the national and international audience.

The CPC unites under one umbrella former members of the Séléka and anti-Balaka militias. How are relations within the coalition?

We are in the thick of things right now, so it’s too early to say and hard to assess the situation after just one month of joint operations. What’s more, each party to the coalition has its own organisational structure and varying levels of readiness.

But it’s true that for this coalition to work, reconciliation will need to take place between ex-Séléka members (predominantly Muslim) and anti-Balaka (predominantly Christian) armed groups, as well as Fulani factions. Once this happens, these various communities can put their past divisions behind them and we’ll be able to unite as a nation and experience true peace.

What are the CPC’s ties to former president Bozizé?

Even though several of the now-defunct armed groups that signed the Kamba-Kota declaration are from the former Séléka alliance, which was behind Bozizé’s ouster in 2013, everyone could see that there was a convergence of views between the former president and the CPC. He pledged his support to us on the eve of the first round of elections, held on 27 December 2020, because of the coalition’s clear objectives I mentioned earlier.

Could he end up leading the CPC?

That would certainly signal our inclusiveness. Nothing precludes Bozizé from becoming the CPC’s leader, but we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds.

The democratic opposition condemned the attack on Bangui. Won’t this attack bolster Touadéra’s position?

The condemnation is based on universal principles, ones that the CPC itself doesn’t challenge. However, up until the last minute, all the coalition was asking of the authorities and President Touadéra was that they respect democratic principles.

What else were we supposed to do when faced with government silence and the head-in-the-sand approach that a large swathe of the international community has adopted, pretending not to notice the abuses that civil society and opposition groups have been pointing out to them all along? The democratic opposition’s condemnation of the Bangui attack is one thing, while their support for President Touadéra is another.

CPC forces have been accused of committing violence against civilians. What do you say to these allegations? Can the CPC keep its troops in line?

To the best of my knowledge, to date, CPC troops haven’t been violent towards civilians.

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President Touadéra is backed by MINUSCA and Russian and Rwandan forces which, combined, total more than 10,000 men, and we’re not even talking about their equipment. Does the CPC have enough resources to hold its own for the long haul?

My biggest takeaway from this number you’ve mentioned isn’t about the math, but rather the immorality of the involvement of foreign mercenaries alongside UN forces. When, due to compromising behaviour on the part of some senior civil servants responsible for implementing the policies of major international institutions, said institutions openly turn their back on the great moral principles that are supposed to guide their actions, they are inviting chaos.

If the CPC were to take over Bangui, what would your agenda for the CAR be?

It’d be in line with the objectives we set for ourselves: ensuring peace and security countrywide, restoring social unity and the sovereignty of the state over its territory and natural resources, and developing every prefecture of the republic; in short, I’d focus on establishing a true democracy.

Do you hope to set up a military-led transitional government and then hold new elections?

A transitional government? Probably. Military-led? Not necessarily. As for holding new elections, yes, definitely. That’s what the entire population wants, provided that the elections are fair, inclusive, transparent, peaceful and democratic.

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