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Michel Djotodia: Bangui’s new strongman


Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-03-25

One day after taking control of the Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui and forcing President François Bozizé to flee, Michel Djotodia is expected to officially name himself president of the country in a declaration on Monday.

The Central African Republic’s new self-declared leader, Michel Djotodia, is expected to officially name himself the country’s president on Monday, one day after taking control of the capital Bangui and deposing President François Bozizé.

By declaring himself president, Djotodia has joined an unofficial fraternity of Central African Republic leaders who have forced their way into power since the country first gained independence from France in 1960. Over the past four decades, the Central African Republic has been plagued by political instability and intermittent clashes. Djotodia’s predecessor Bozizé became president after seizing control of the country in a 2003 coup which toppled former leader, Ange-Félix Patasse.

Aside from his forced ascent to the Central African Republic’s presidency, there is not much known about Djotodia’s life outside of the political arena. Born in the Central African Republic’s northeast, Djotodia determinedly worked his way into politics before becoming head of the Seleka coalition – a loose alliance of five armed opposition groups that have protested against years of exclusion by the government.

South African forces killed in Central African Republic fighting

At least 13 South African soldiers were killed and another 27 wounded in clashes with rebel forces in the Central African Republic, South African President Jacob Zuma said on Monday.

A few hundred South African troops were deployed to the central African country earlier this year as reinforcement to government forces after the Seleka coalition launched an offensive on the capital in December.

“He comes from… a region where he is mostly known as an intellectual who speaks several languages,” Louisa Lombard, an anthropologist who specialises in the Central African Republic, told French radio RFI. “He studied in Russia and has always had huge political ambitions.”

As the head of Seleka, Djotodia took part in negotiations to reach a peace agreement with Bozizé’s government after closing in on Bangui for the first time in December 2012. A deal was eventually signed in Gabon’s capital Libreville in mid-January, which saw Bozizé form a new national unity government with Djotodia as his minister of national defense.

But in the weeks that followed the Libreville peace accord, the Seleka coalition accused Bozizé of failing to hold up his end of the bargain. Fed up, Seleka broke its ceasefire agreement with the government, seizing control of the capital and forcing Bozizé to flee.

As the Central African Republic’s new self-declared president, Djotodia now faces the daunting task of restoring order to the country. Although the word “Seleka” means “alliance” in the local Sango language, the coalition is made up of diverse and divided groups, including bush guerilla leaders and exiled politicians.

Djotodia, however, has vowed to respect the terms of January’s peace deal, promising that elections will be held as planned within the next three years. Djotodia also said that he will keep on Bozizé’s prime minister, Nicolas Tiangay.

“I met Mr. Tiangaye, and we are keeping with the spirit of Libreville,” Djotodia said after taking control of Bangui on Sunday. “I’m going to keep him as prime minister. We will talk with other members of Bozizé’s government who are still here. We will not conduct a witch hunt. I don’t know how long I will stay in power. In accordance with the Libreville agreement, we will organise free and transparent elections in the next three years.”

The landlocked Central African Republic, which is bordered by the Sudans, Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, is rich in natural resources such as gold, timber, uranium and diamonds. Yet despite its wealth, the underdeveloped country remains one of the poorest in the world.

Date created : 2013-03-25