François Bozizé of Central African Republic, CAR, recently appointed rebel leaders into his new government as part of the ceasefire accord signed last month to halt rebels’ progress towards the capital city, Bangui. The concern now is whether African leaders want an uprising before they can bring change to the people or respect their pre-election pledges. After DR Congo, Central African Republic, are were expecting other rebel groups to pick up arms and lead a rebellion for change?
Bozize’s fulfilment is welcomed by the Seleka coalition, though some groups seemed dissatisfied with their own portions of the national cake. Although the ceasefire is being observed by all parties, the rebels still have the gun power to start another attack at anytime. They are yet to disarm – still in possession of arms and ammunitions. Bozize, himself should know from experience as a military officer and also former coup master planner that it is hard to please rebels once they have their eyes set on taking over power. Therefore, the appointment is more of a double-sided sword. It can be taken as kind gesture as well as an act of weakness on the part of Bozize, who has always struggled to contain rebellion. After snatching power from late Ange-Félix Patassé in 2003, with the backing of Chad, Bozize for over the years has been unable to fortify his own forces to defend the country single-handedly. It is even believed that his presidential guards are all Chadians.
Weak leader, weak state
CAR, itself is a landlocked country though harbours minerals like uranium, diamond and other resources remains poor. Notable for its history of mutinies and leaders relying on foreign protégés to stay in power, it is a former French colony. Today, the country is also a refuge for insurgent groups operating within its dense forest region, where Joseph Kony, and his Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA are suspected to be hiding. President Bozize has constantly had to seek assistance from neighbouring countries – Cameroon, Chad, Congo Brazzaville and Gabon to hold on to power. If he is not lobbying for financial aids to boost his economy, he is soliciting for military intervention to stop rebels overthrowing him.
As experts of international relations would tell you, a weak nation is by itself a threat to regional stability. Vulnerable, it can be attacked at any time. To continue to exist, a weak state will always be expecting assistance from outside, therefore any insurgent group with sponsors from abroad can easily mount a coup d’état to unseat a ruling government. In analogous terms, a weak state is more of a parasite that will always need a host for its existence.
Another problem with a weak state just as a weak leader is that it is constantly under pressure both from within as well as from exterior. In order to endure this pressure, the head of state something is pushed to the walls, thus forced to sign accord that cannot be respected. When this happens there is always that probability that another conflict can ensue. For how long will neighbouring countries continue to provide support for Bozize to hang on an edge? Only Bozize can tell. As a result of this insecurity, most Central Africans have no choice but to flee to neighbouring countries that are already overburdened by their president. With Bozize more of a beggar than a respected leader, which the rebels and opposition parties understand very well, his days in control are barely counted. Offering ministerial posts to rebel leaders is more like trying to mix water and oil. No matter how hard one tries to stir the two to mix, oil will always stand out.
All is not lost
Although the various groups have accused Bozize on many occasions for failing to respect the accords he signed for the rebels to disarm and join the regular army, the real problem is that of his feebleness. Weak in everything from rhetoric, to electoral campaign, to ruling and to taking concrete decisions, Bozize has often exposed his lapses that have initiated the very rebellion that he is trying to waft off today. Thinking more of a military commander, constantly being worried about his safety and escape routes in case of an assault, Bozize has lost support of his citizens and grip on power.
However, Bozize can blow his own trumpet that he is not alone. Joseph Kabila of DR Congo has been in the same hot seat for years. Whether Bozize first move to respect the Libreville, Gabon accord is welcomed or not, he would need more than a mere paper appointment to move the country ahead. More political reforms and economic initiatives and the will to promote democracy, good governance and dialogue even with his own opponents can play the trick. Being a former rebel, he must also be smart to understand other rebels and must work hard or hand in hand to build mutual understanding for the entire Central African Republic and not for his family or ego. Once bitten, twice shy.