Why the CAR is a failed phantom state
Mobhare Matinyi, thecitizen
In the past three decades the Central African Republic (CAR) has moved from being a dictatorship to a failing state, then from a failing state to a failed state and ultimately a phantom state. The CAR is an illusion of what could be a state, fairly to say a de jure state but never a de facto state.
The Brussels-based think tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), explains the meaning of a phantom state as applied to the CAR as a state in which “the government no longer has much control of the country.” The BBC describes the CAR as “a failed state in permanent crisis with never ending mutinies and rebellions.”
The former French-colony which gained independence in 1960 fell into the cliff after the ouster of a French stooge-turned-enemy, Dictator Jean-Bédel Bokassa, in 1979. You can’t imagine that a savage beast like Bokassa who proclaimed himself an emperor, is missed today. What a pity!
The CAR, a landlocked country between the war-ravaged countries of Chad to the north, Sudan or to be specific the Darfur region, and newly-independent South Sudan to the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo to the south, and the peaceful Cameroon to the west, has seen more than a dozen mutinies and rebellions in the past decade alone.
Speaking of nature, the CAR is indeed a gorgeous country awash with two big rivers, Chari which flows north into Lake Chad and Ubangi which beautifies the capital Bangui before flowing south into the DRC. The country is home to rainforests, elephants and gorillas, and rich in diamonds and several other minerals. About half of its exports come from diamonds.
Unfortunately, 62 percent of the 4.5 million Central Africans live below the poverty line in a country that is approximately two-thirds of Tanzania. The United Nations ranks the country 180th out of 187 countries and territories in its Human Development Index with the national income a mere $2.2 billion, less than the $2.4 billion Mohamed Al Fayed pocketed after selling the famed Harrods’s department store in London to Qatar Holdings in 2010.
After wasting three decades under military rule, the CAR returned to civilian rule in 1993, but within ten years the chaos returned. The former army chief of staff, François Bozizé, with the support of Chadian mercenaries and France of course, overthrew the government of Ange-Félix Patassé who had been enjoying the support of the then Libya and Congolese rebels.
Somehow Bozizé, as an African politician, quickly figured out the best way to deal with Western powers, so after securing a victory in the 2005 elections he received greetings saying, “We can work with you.” Unfortunately, the man had no real power to rule his country; he was just a figure-head wearing designer suits and feeding his family.
The mess started from the north-west pitting the national army against the rebels supporting Patassé, while in the north-east rebels who fought for Bozizé turned against him complaining of neglect. That wasn’t enough, according to the January 2008 edition of The Economist, a group of bandits known as Zaraguina, mostly from Chad, ransacked the countryside kidnapping and killing people.
In the midst of the chaos, government troops couldn’t resolve either of the crises, and to make the matter worse, the presidential security guards, mainly tribal militia with no military discipline, started killing civilians.
At one time in 2008 the UN Security Council sanctioned the European Union peacekeeping forces to help with the situation in the north, but that was not enough. Anyway, to cut the story short, towards the end of March 2013 the united front of the northern rebels took over the capital after seizing other parts of the country step by step ignoring the peace agreement.
Monsieur Le President Bozizé was nowhere to be seen, but his family crossed River Ubangi into the DRC. Can you imagine someone escaping for safety to the DRC in 2013?
Caught in the cross-fire were about 400 South African soldiers who ended up losing 13 of their comrades and injuring tens in an unwise stand-off with about 3,000 rebels. The new president is now Michel Djotodia, and he is asking for a three-year period to prepare the country for elections.
The international response was swift: no recognition of the rebel-led government. The African Union (AU) quickly suspended the CAR last week, and this week after a brief meeting in Chad the ten-nation Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) denounced the new government and asked for support from the AU to restore peace to the country.
That is the Central African Republic, a country that was supposed to flow milk and honey, but instead it is blood that is flowing as diamonds find their illicit way to Europe. What is wrong with some African countries?