Tuesday, May 5, 2015

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Central African Republic: the Opposition's Travails Continue

With Bozizé re-elected earlier this year, this article assesses the state of the CAR's political opposition - and its prospects.
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The incumbent president, Bozizé

Success spoilt by illness

Having finished second with 21% of the vote, Ange-Félix Patassé was the one opposition candidate to make an impression in the Presidential election. The possibility of the former president returning to prominence has, however, been dashed by his deteriorating health. It's now being reported that Bozizé is refusing to allow Patassé to leave the country for medical treatment.

A desperate boycott

While the government has been criticised for its manipulation, the opposition has also come under fire. Le Confident, a lone independent voice in the CAR's media, damned the opposition for its failure to approach the elections with a united strategy. The opposition's boycott of the second round of Parliamentary elections was a desperate attempt to influence a process that has so far been comprehensively controlled by the ruling party.

In the short term, the boycott will achieve nothing. The Constitutional Court has ruled that both the low turn-out and the withdrawal of candidates will not affect the legitimacy of the results. Members of Bozizé's KNK party have been quick to celebrate their absolute majority.

The key question is whether the drop in turn-out from the Presidential to the Parliamentary elections is the result of the boycott or of apathy. If it is the former and citizens did indeed respond to the opposition's calls, then the opposition can take encouragement from their ability to exert influence over a considerable part of the population. A popular protest movement does, however, still seem far away.

And now for peace?

These elections were never going to deliver a genuinely democratic outcome. There was some hope, however, that a new mandate for Bozizé might enable him to improve the country's security situation. At present, there are few signs of progress.

Fighting between rebel groups continues in the north. On the 20th March the UFDR attacked the CPJP base in Ngounda. Two days later, the CPJP retaliated with an attack on the UFDR base in Goz Beida. 129 homes were destroyed. The LRA also remain active.

The legitimacy of Bozizé's rule and the future of CAR as a viable country rests on the leader's ability to establish control over the north. This remains a distant goal.

The UN's new office

On March 2nd, the UN Regional Office for Central Africa opened in Libreville. B. Lynn Pascoe, the UN's Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, suggests that the office will focus on conflict prevention. The office has identified coordinating efforts against the LRA as a key aim. Many in the CAR's opposition will have been unimpressed by Pascoe's decision to congratulate Bozizé on his victory. The UN has evidently chosen to move beyond the flawed elections and seek progress with the current regime. A pragmatic if dispiriting decision.

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