By Damascène Hakuzimana
On January 4, the Central African Republic re-elected Faustin-Archange Touadéra to the presidency for a second term in the midst of numerous crises, notably a catastrophic security situation involving powerful armed groups. Resources-rich Central Africa, located in the middle of the continent, has been struggling to control rival groups that have been fighting each other along ethnic and religious divisions for many years.
Touadéra’s election is contested, despite official reports that he obtained 53.92 % of the votes, and he will govern a nation embroiled in tumult. Governmental authority has been compromised in the capital city of Bangui, and various rebel groups control two-thirds of the 240,535 square miles of the country’s territory. The BBC reports that disruptions by armed groups occurred in 40% of electoral districts during the election, and the opposition is demanding a rerun. Surrounded by United Nations peacekeeping forces, Touadéra has called for the support of special forces from Rwanda, as well as mercenaries from Russia, to enhance security in the country.
Conflict in Central Africa mounted in 2003, when Francois Bozizé, then a rebel commander, deposed President Ange-Félix Patassé. Bozizé ruled until 2013, when he was unseated by Muslim rebel Seleka. Bozizé fled abroad, and in 2015 the country elected Faustin-Archange Touadéra, who had previously served as prime minister. In 2019, Bozizé returned to Central Africa to run for president, despite an arrest warrant in his name, but his candidature was invalidated. His return was disruptive – he is accused of working behind the scenes to orchestrate a march on Bangui that was intended to seize power by force.
Al-Jazeera reports that the Central Africa government asked for – and received – military support from Rwanda and Russia to help the U.N. peacekeeping force push back the rebels. However, rebels overpowered government forces on January 3 in the town of Bangassou, located 470 miles from Bangui, and are controlling the diamond-rich mines in the region.
With an eye to a share of Central Africa’s natural resources, Russia, Rwanda, and France are among the countries that are helping the region regain normalcy, according to the BBC. They report that Russia has a weakening economy and is looking to expand its market among former Cold War allies.