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Africa

Central African president re-elected amid cries of fraud

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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-02-03

Strongman Francois Bozize (pictured) has been comfortably re-elected to the presidency of the Central African Republic, according to the electoral commission’s provisional results, but his rivals denounce the outcome as a fraud.

AFP - Provisional election results say Francois Bozize has been re-elected as president of the Central African Republic (CAR).

But his rival candidates are crying foul and the constitutional court is still to endorse his victory.
             
The French-trained military man has a chequered history of exile, imprisonment and coups.
             
Five candidates were on the ballot in the landlocked former French colony. His main challenger was Ange-Felix Patasse, who had led the country until 2003, when Bozize overthrew him.
             
Bozize was born on October 14, 1946, in Gabon, where his father was a gendarme in the French colonial system.
             
His family hails from the north of the Central African Republic and is from the largest ethnic group in the country, the Gbaya.
             
Undertaking a military career, the young man came to the attention of the notorious Jean-Bedel Bokassa, another Central African leader who came to power in a coup.
             
The story goes that Bozize was first noticed by Bokassa because he came to blows with a French mercenary who had not shown sufficient respect to the Central African leader.
             
Under Bokassa, who had himself declared "emperor" of the impoverished nation and was later deposed in a French-backed coup, Bozize became his country's youngest general, at age 32.
             
With Bokassa's fall in 1979, he lost some of his standing, but left for France to undergo military training.
             
But by 1981 he was back in circulation when General Andre Kolingba ousted David Dacko, who had himself overthrown Bokassa.
              
He was to serve as defence and information minister in two successive regimes. But after trying to topple president Kolingba in 1982 he went into exile in neighbouring Chad and later Benin.
             
He was extradited from there in 1989 and jailed for subversion. In 1990 he narrowly escaped being murdered in his prison cell, but was freed the following year.
             
In 1993 he stood as a candidate in the presidential elections that brought Patasse to power; Bozize took only one percent of the vote, a fact his detractors have made much of ever since.
             
Patasse nevertheless appointed him head of the country's armed forces in 1996.
             
But in October 2001, he was forced to flee after a failed bid to overthrow Patasse. Bozize again crossed into Chad and from there he went into exile in France under an accord reached in the Gabonese capital, Libreville.
             
After another failed coup attempt against Patasse in October 2001, he finally succeeded in seizing power two years later.
             
Bozize's acceptance speech Tuesday was uninspiring, but then public speaking was never his strong point, and he has always said he prefers action to words.
             
Lacking in charisma, the 64-year-old leader presents himself as a "builder" and "patriot", although his critics say he is mainly interested in power.
             
He says he hopes to rebuild the Central African Republic thanks to its as-yet underexploited resources, in particular oil, uranium and gold.
              
However a Western observer said that Bozize "governs no differently from the others who went before him. He governs above all for his ethnic group, his clan, his family."
             
The Central African Republic is notoriously unstable, with large areas subject to rebel movements and uprisings.

 

Date created : 2011-02-03

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