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Ex-president Patasse of Central African Republic dies

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-04-06

Central African Republic's former president Ange-Felix Patasse died Tuesday at the age of 74, just three months after making a final bid for president. Patasse, who first ascended to the presidency in 1993, was ousted in a 2003 coup.

AFP - Former Central African Republic president Ange-Felix Patasse, who after a long and chequered career was ousted in a 2003 coup, has died just months after making a last bid to run his impoverished country. He was 74.

Patasse's spokesman, Guy-Simplice Kodegue, told AFP Patasse died in Douala in Cameroon while on his way to Equatorial Guinea for medical treatment.

"President Patasse is dead. He died today (Tuesday) in a hospital in Douala," Kodegue said. "I don't know all the circumstances... for the moment I can only confirm the news of his death."

Patasse, who had diabetes and had been hospitalised for four days last month, was last month twice barred from leaving the Central African Republic for medical checkups but Kodegue said the government had finally permitted him to leave.

In the months before his death, Patasse had been at odds with the regime of President Francois Bozize over January presidential and parliamentary elections, which the opposition denounced as falsified.

Bozize was re-elected in the first round of the vote with 64 percent of the vote against Patasse's 21 percent.

First elected president in 1993 and re-elected in 1999, Patasse faced three army mutinies and two coup attempts before finally being ousted by Bozize in 2003.

Born in 1937 in the northern town of Paoua near the border with Chad, Patasse, like Bozize, went to the then colonial power France for studies.

He then held several government posts in agriculture in the Central African Republic before a short stint as prime minister in 1976 under the notorious self-declared emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa.

Bokassa, who was known as "The Cannibal" and was accused of having his political rivals cooked and served to visiting foreign dignitaries, was toppled in a French-backed coup in 1979 led by David Dacko. He had ruled since independence in 1960.

Patasse spent a year in jail before going into exile for the 1980s in Togo and in France after being accused of trying to overthrow the government led by Andre Kolingba, who ousted Dacko after just two years in office.

He returned home in 1992 and a year later beat both Kolingba and Dacko to become president of the country, most of whose 4.5 million residents live in extreme poverty despite the landlocked country's wealth of minerals including gold, diamonds and uranium.

Patasse suppressed three army mutinies, sparked by the government's failure to pay its soldiers, in 1996 and 1997 with the aid of French troops.

But he was finally ousted in a coup by Bozize, his former army chief, and forced into exile in Togo. While in exile he was convicted in absentia and sentenced to 20 years hard labour.

In 2008 Patasse announced he was recognising his "little brother Francois Bozize" as president and in October 2009 he finally returned to Bangui from Togo.

He registered as a candidate for the January vote and came second despite his frail health making him unable to campaign.


Date created : 2011-04-06


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