Residents of the Central African Republic (CAR)have witnessed more coups than elections since their country gained independence from France in 1960. Sylvestre, a civil servant from the capital Bangui, hopes that change for the better is just around the corner. “It’s always the same here, the situation in the country has deteriorated badly. Right now we really do need progress, to elect somebody who can do some good for our country,” he said. But with 30 candidates running for the presidency in Sunday’s (27.12.2015) elections, it is difficult to see who that somebody could be. The contents of their manifestoes are virtually unknown and this dearth of information is similar to that which beset the referendum earlier in the month. The electorate had to vote on a new constitution about which they knew very little. They voted for it nonetheless. In spite of all the uncertainty surrounding the identity of the next president, there is one political figure who will not be taking the helm: ex-President Francois Bozize, who was ousted in a coup in 2013. The Constitutional Court has banned him from participating. Bozize, who grabbed power himself in a coup in 2003, believes the ruling was unfair. “It was a shabby thing to do to somebody of my caliber,” Bozize told DW. He was president of the country for ten years. “These days nobody wants to have anything to do with me. I was simply dropped,” he said.
Tim Glawion, analyst at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) in Hamburg, believes the Constitutional Court’s decision not to let Bozize participate in the elections was both correct and courageous. “It was an interesting remark that Bozize made there. I think a number of his own citizens would describe his repressive regime as shabby,” Glawion told DW. The United Nations slapped sanctions on Bozize; he stands accused of having orchestrated brutal attacks on the Muslim community across the country by the Christian anti-Balaka militia after he was deposed.
Muslim rebels and Christian militia have been locked in conflict in CAR for the last three years. The Muslim rebels toppled Christian President Francois Bozize in March 2013 and there have been frequent attacks on both Muslims and Christians since that date. Around a quarter of the country’s 4.7 million inhabitants have been driven from their homes by this religiously motivated violence.