17 December, fighting broke out in the Central African Republic - the Coalition of Patriots for Reforms conglomerate launched an offensive against the capital, Bangui city, and derailed the peace process.
During a week of bloody battles, events in the CAR became the subject of discussion of news editorials of the world media. Russia sent aid to the country, Rwanda and the UN. TO 26 the number of the offensive was reflected, and the army, mostly, regained control over the lost settlements.
The root cause of the escalation of the conflict in the CAR is the presidential and parliamentary elections, which will take place 27 December. Current President Faustin-Arrange Touadera is running for a second term - and not everyone likes it.
Federal News Agency explains, what was the situation in the CAR by the beginning of the elections, what the main candidates offer, and who is trying to prevent a country from making a democratic choice.
The hard road to the first transparent elections in the CAR
The Constitutional Court rejects the petition of several candidates for the post of head of state to postpone the presidential and legislative elections of the Central African Republic, filed under the pretext of escalating the situation in the country. In this way, voting will take place on Sunday, 27 December 2020 of the year. In terms of significance, this event can only be compared with the country's gaining independence..
The upcoming vote depends on, which path will the further development of the whole country take. The thing is, what, from the moment of gaining independence and up to 2016 of the year, not a single election on the territory of the Republic was truly democratic and transparent by African standards.
Most of them were carried out exclusively for, to de jure to consolidate the power of this or that dictator. Furthermore, in most cases, the population of the country was under pressure, or some of the citizens of the Republic were physically deprived of the opportunity to vote. Also, not every head of the Central African Republic left office on time..
Suffice it to recall, for example, Michelle Jotodia, who was the self-proclaimed president, who gained power as a result of a coup. Jotodia's predecessor, François Bozizet, also organized several violent attempts to seize power., and he began his career under Jean-Bedel Bokassa, who completely declared himself emperor and ruled without regard to any will of the people.
At the time of coming to power, the incumbent President Faustin-Arrange Touadera faced more than just the need to restore the economy, as well as the formation of the army and gendarmerie, its main task was the formation of modern state institutions. As of today, the President and the Government of the CAR were able to carry out all the necessary measures to, so that the upcoming elections are truly transparent and fair by African standards, and the voting procedure was held in full accordance with the basic law of the republic, and the presence of independent observers was organized at polling stations.
Back in November, representatives of international organizations conducted large-scale trainings for independent observers, attended by leaders of religious and ethnic communities, as well as representatives of public organizations.
Central African Elections Arouse Increased Attention to Chad's CAR bordering, Cameroon, WRC, Republic of the Congo, Sudan and South Sudan. Due to their geographic location and for economic reasons, these countries are interested in the stability of their neighbor.. France monitors voting in its former colony, and also the USA. And Washington, and Paris have their own interests in the CAR, therefore they are actively trying to influence the situation in the country, mainly by means of the media controlled by them.
Russia, also monitors the electoral process in the Republic, since in recent years it has been consistently strengthening cooperation with the CAR, developing partnerships in the economic and military-technical fields, and therefore interested in lasting peace in the Republic. At the moment, it is the Russian Federation that acts as the main peacemaker in the region., which, among other things, increases its prestige in the international arena, demonstrating the effectiveness of soft power policies.
The course of the election campaign
FROM 1 November 2020 year began filing documents with the National Election Commission for subsequent registration as presidential candidates or members of the legislative assembly.
After checking by the commission of inquiry, the Constitutional Court rejected several candidates. The final list included 17 presidential candidates from 22, submitting documents. Ex-President of the Central African Republic Francois Bozizet was among those who were not admitted to the elections., which is not only under UN sanctions, but also submitted a false certificate of entry into the country. In fact, he did not live on the territory of the Republic for one year, as required by the legislation of the country.
but, instead of, to agree with the court's decision and publicly admit the fact of the use of forged documents, François Bozize secretly left the capital of the CAR and headed to the north of the Republic in Bossangoa - a city, who call it "citadel", actually continuing his election campaign.
On his way, he held rallies and meetings with voters, where he called on all those present to ignore the decision of the Constitutional Court and not obey the orders of the official authorities.
4 December in Zongo, located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the border with the capital of the CAR, Bozise's other son, Socrates, was arrested. He is accused of recruiting mercenaries to organize a coup in the Republic.
In fact, Bozize continued his election campaign. Thereafter, in a joint UN statement, AS, CEEAC and EU urged politicians to respect decisions of the Constitutional Court.
Nevertheless, after numerous trips, François Bozizet had to publicly admit the decision of the Constitutional Court. The reason for this was the lack of support among the population., which he so counted on. Furthermore, charges have not been dropped on Boziz, and he is under UN personal sanctions.
12 December, according to the statement of the National Electoral Office (ANE), election campaign has officially begun in the country, which lasted until 25 December 2020 of the year.
Current President Faustin-Arrange Touadera announced the start its campaign with 12 December and began to hold meetings with voters. Already 14 numbers he welcomed their supporters in the first and seventh districts of Bangui and in the city of Bimbo.
Other candidates did not lag behind the head of state. Martin Siegel presented its political strategy 13 December during a specially convened press conference. Anise Georges Dologele outlined the main directions of his election program in an interview for radio Ndekeluka.
15 five pre-election rallies were held in Bangui and other cities of the CAR. Meetings with voters were held by Katrin Samba Panza, Nicolas Tiange, Krepen Mboli Gumba, Alexander Ngende and Martin Siegel.
16 On December, the suspended Bozize KNK party published a joint press release with the URCA party, in which there was announced on their support for the candidacy of Anise Georges Dologele.
The rally of Faustin-Archange Touadère was a striking episode of the pre-election race, held at Bangui Central Stadium 20 December. The event gathered over 20 000 human, which was not only proof of the wide popular support of the current head of state, but also demonstrated to the citizens the determination of the Central African authorities to hold elections on time.
At the same time, opposition candidates announced the suspension of their election campaigns under the pretext of the troubled situation in the country.. However, the matter did not go beyond statements.. So, eg, Martin Siegel on the same day held a meeting with voters in Karnot, and the next day in Berberati.
In this way, all candidates continued active election campaign with the exception of the son of the Central African dictator Jean-Serge Bokassa. 22 December he withdrew his candidacy, arguing this by the escalation of the situation in the country by the armed groups.
It should be noted separately, that the ex-president of the CAR Michelle Jotodia, held this post since 2013 by 2014 year, at the beginning of the election race announced, that he will not be nominated for the post of head of state. Furthermore, he turned to François Bozizet, also former head of state, with a call to abandon plans to run in the upcoming elections. Later, Jotodia announced his support for the candidacy of the incumbent President of the CAR Faustin-Archange Touader in the upcoming elections.
Social poll, held in all prefectures of the CAR on the eve of the elections showed, that the citizens of the country know about the upcoming voting and consider it one of the most important events 2020 of the year. Most of the registered Central Africans are going to vote.
According to the obtained statistics, Faustin-Arrange Touadera became the main candidates, Anise-Georges Dologele, Jean-Serge Bokassa, Abdul-Karim Mekassua and Desiree Kolingba. Subsequently, Bokassa withdrew his candidacy from the elections.
The favorite in the electoral race is the incumbent head of the Central African Republic Faustin-Arrange Touadera, for which we are not ready to vote 72,4 percent of CAR residents. Former prime minister (2008–2013) and a professor at the University of Bangui was first elected to the post of head of the Republic in 2016 year and managed to bring the country out of the crisis and lay the foundations for its further development in many areas. Touadera participates in the upcoming elections with the support of the United Hearts Party (MCU).
One of the main achievements of the current president is the establishment of peace throughout the CAR through negotiations with the participation of international mediators., the main of which was the Russian Federation. 28 August 2018 of the year managed to seat the leaders of the main military-political groups at the negotiating table, operating in the country. The consultation resulted in the signing of the Khartoum Peace Agreement, which put an end to inter-tribal and inter-religious strife in the Republic. Nevertheless, establishing a peaceful dialogue would have been impossible without the material and technical support of the CAR army (make) from the Russian Federation.
The second area of activity of Faustin-Archange Touader as president was the restoration of the economy and the development of the infrastructure of the Republic.. At the moment, the main economic partners of the CAR are the PRC, Russia, as well as several countries of the European Union. Mutually beneficial cooperation of the CAR government with international companies has already allowed launching a number of infrastructure projects, which contribute to the disclosure of the country's economic potential, and significantly improve the quality of life of its citizens.
The current president's closest rival is former CAR Prime Minister Anise-Georges Dologele. However, the rating gap with the previous candidate is very large: for Dologele are ready to vote only 6,1 percentage of citizens of the republic. After leaving the post of head of government, he with 2001 by 2010 year headed the Bank of Central African States.
Dologele initiated the creation of a joint platform "Coalition of Democratic Opposition 2020" (The Coalition of the Democratic Opposition, COD–2020), which also included the "Unification for the revival of the Central African Republic" (Union for Central African Renewal, abbreviated URCA) and the KWA-NA-KWA parish (KNK).
Participated in previous presidential elections, where he was able to gain a little more than three percent of the vote. However, the support of Faustin-Archange Touader allowed him to hold the post of President of the National Assembly of the Republic with 2016 by 2018 year. In the political history of the CAR, he was remembered as the most implacable opponent of his country's cooperation with the Russian Federation and advocated closer cooperation with France. According to the population survey, only three percent of CAR voters are ready to vote for Abdul-Karim Mekassua.
Descendant of the former head of the Central African Republic. His father, Andre Kolingba, was the fourth president of the CAR. At the elections 2014 he lost to Katrin-Samba Panza, who became the first woman president of the republic. Currently unknown, what is the reason for Kolingba's popularity compared to other second-tier candidates, but according to opinion polls, two percent of CAR citizens are ready to vote for him.
Disinformation in the media as a tool to influence elections
Preparations for the elections in the Central African Republic expectedly aroused increased media interest. In this regard, the government of the country took care of the organization special training seminar for press workers. Faustin Arrange Touadera made a speech at its opening, highlighting the importance of professional ethics for journalists, and noted the need to combat disinformation and hate speech in the media
However, not all news publications, leaving the CAR, listened to the words of the president of the state. So, Corbeau News took advantage of the riots, erupted in some parts of the country, to try and organize a public disinformation campaign. Local clashes with bandits on the pages of the publication turned into mass clashes. Furthermore, Corbeau News journalists began to claim, that Russian military and heavy equipment were sent to the CAR.
This information was instantly picked up by the French and some Russian media.. However, soon the unsubstantiated allegations were personally denied by the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic, Vladimir Titorenko. According to the diplomat, there are five employees of the representative office of the Russian Ministry of Defense in the CAR, open 24 October, as well as instructors, who train the personnel of the country's armed forces. Titorenko noted, that all requirements are met, enshrined in UN resolutions, and there can be no talk of any transfer of hundreds of troops and weapons to the CAR. He also told, that there is no question of a military coup, although “there are some destructive forces, who want to disrupt these elections ".
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Mikhail Bogdanov also noted Russia's compliance with all requirements set forth in UN resolutions on the Central African Republic.. The diplomat recalled, that Russian instructors are helping the armed forces of the Republic in accordance with the request of the legally elected leadership of the country.
It should be noted, that attempts to create the appearance of riots in the CAR were instantly used by opposition forces as a pretext for requesting to postpone the vote. Earlier, similar demands from the opposition sounded, when the coronavirus pandemic began in Africa. This indicates a systematic desire of opponents of the current government in the CAR to disrupt the process of expression of the will of the country's people..
However, the leadership of the Republic maintains control over the situation and intends to hold elections in strict accordance with the Constitution, and the efforts of the opposition cause natural condemnation international community.
The situation in the country today
In recent days, mass rallies and marches have been held in the capital and some large cities of the Republic., whose participants demonstrate support for the current president and government of the CAR. They also protest against the militants' attempts to undermine the situation ahead of the elections., which will take place tomorrow, 27 December.
In parallel with this, from some parts of the country, reports began to come in about clashes between bandits and the armed forces of the Central African Republic.. It also became a pretext for opposition demand postponing elections. However, the FACA troops, with the support of the MINUSCA contingent, were able to restore order.
The help of militants from the territory of Chad did not change the situation, With which, according to sources, is in connection with François Bozizet. No ammunition trucks at the moment, no large-caliber machine guns, arriving from a neighboring state, failed to significantly affect the situation inside the Central African Republic.
Government of the country issued a statement, in which he pointed to the possible involvement of Bozize in the attempt to disrupt the elections, and the G5 member states in a joint press release called on to timely voting. From similar positions acted and international observers from European countries.
Also on the inadmissibility of destabilization in the country on the eve of the elections noticed and the African Union, and the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, supported the efforts of the CAR government to maintain peace in the country ahead of the elections.
The attention of the international community to the elections in the CAR, as well as information about sending an additional group of instructors from the Russian Federation to the country for FACA consultations forced the bandits, united in the "Coalition of Patriots for Change" (CPC), to announce 23 December 72-hour truce.
but 25 militants resumed clashes with government forces in December. From the Central Africans and intelligence FACA who fled from the CPC units, it was possible to learn, that there are mercenaries from Chad in the gangs, Sudan and Cameroon. The militants are armed, among other things, with NATO weapons, which is practically not found in the official armed forces of African countries, and for the general leadership of the bandits, according to sources, ex-president Francois Bozizet stands.
Elections in CAR will be held in accordance with the law, despite provocations
The target of the militants from the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) was the disruption of the upcoming vote. However, to 26 December clashes are practically not recorded, and the armed forces of the Central African Republic, with the advisory support of Russian instructors, managed to occupy key positions.
The final point in the pre-election history in the CAR was the decision of the Constitutional Court of the country, which the 26 December rejected an earlier application of a group of presidential candidates to postpone the elections. After this event, which met with approval (link) by ordinary citizens, there is no doubt about the timely voting.
In conclusion, it is worth noting, that disinformation and provocations in the information field are often observed before elections in any country. The Central African Republic was no exception.. Over the past days, reports of a possible disruption of the elections, attacks by militants and the escalation of the situation in the state were actively disseminated in the media, predominantly westernized. Nevertheless, according to representatives of international organizations, CAR is ready for elections, the situation in the country is under the control of the government and peacekeepers, and the vote must take place on time.
Author: Alisa Lebedeva