Potential Hot Spots: June 6, 2003


Central African Republic (CAR) president Francois Bozize declared that his rule, which started when President Ange-Felix Patasse was ousted in a coup, would end in January 2005. After seizing power on March 15, Bozize has had the presence of (if not the actual support of) an Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC) peacekeeping force, French and Chadian regular army troops.

The 300 French troops were initially sent to Bangui to repatriate foreigners wanting to leave the country but Bozize asked that they remain in the country. The Central African Republic's reserves of diamonds, uranium, gold and oil are certainly a motivating factor for the French, and so they will continue to support the CEMAC peacekeeping force, at the very least up until the 2005 elections (and probably just long enough to get some contracts signed for French-backed mining companies). 

The CEMAC group of 350 troops from Chad, Gabon and the Republic of Congo have been in the CAR since December 2002. Their initial mandate was to protect Patasse, secure the CAR-Chad border and to restructure the army, but their post-coup mandate has yet to be determined. While the French troops have not yet been involved in any operation outside of the capital, joint security sweeps (with CEMAC and working alongside CAR troops and the local gendarmerie) have begun in Bangui to enforce the curfew and reduce lawlessness.

Sudan has offered 10 four-wheel vehicles and other military equipment to the CAR's army, which is Sudan's way of formally recognizing the legitimacy of Bozize's government. Sudan sent a 30-man contingent to Bangui after the 28 May 2001 coup attempt by former President Andre Kolingba and along with Libyan and Djiboutian soldiers, they fought Bozize's troops in November 2001 (when Bozize first rebelled against Patasse) and in October 2002 (when Bozize invaded Bangui's northern suburbs). This Community of Sahelo-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) force was replaced in December 2002 by the CEMAC force.

While security remains among his priorities, Bozize has been unable to restore law and order to the northern regions still under control of bands of armed bands. Public perception is that most of the armed robberies and other acts of violence are the work of Chadian mercenaries who fought alongside the Bozize's forces. There are also counter-accusations that militiamen loyal to Patasse were responsible for most night attacks in Bangui.

The Central African Republic (CAR) military promised to mount a massive crackdown on "unauthorized armed groups" and as a first measure, called on capital residents to report suspects. Responding to public demand, on the 19th Bozize removed irregular Chadian fighters who had been manning a police station in Bangui and reportedly committing human rights violations.

Bozize seems to be working overtime to repair old emotional wounds. Recently, 40 former CAR army officers who had fled during the Kolingba coup attempt were arrested and released a day later, after their identities had been confirmed. In April, Bozize granted amnesty to all the 28 May plotters. - Adam Geibel


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