Sunday, December 30, 2012

CAR: Former renegade general seeks western intervention

The West does not always impose itself on the African continent. Some African rulers actually solicit western intervention in the continent. The president of Central African Republic (CAR), a former renegade general and rebel leader, sought French and American intervention to stop a rebellion that threatens his regime. 

It is an open secret that many people on the African continent and elsewhere blame the West for the perils of the African continent. Many critics argue that the West is an invisible hand engineering conflicts, corruption, poverty, disease and supporting dictatorships in Africa. According to an article on The Economist, titled Africa, oil and the West, a month rarely goes by without the discovery of oil deposits in Africa and only 5 of Africa's 55 countries are neither producing nor exploring for oil. Despite Africa's mineral, oil and agricultural wealth, a chunk of its people live below the poverty line and die of hunger while Western multinationals plunder their resources; sometimes with little or no corporate social responsibility - as in the case of Shell in the Niger Delta. As if the exploitation of resources is not enough, the international criminal justice system disproportionately targets Africans. It is partly against this backdrop that Africans are suspicious of the West - and rightly so.

However, many critics of the West lose sight of the fact that African leaders are partly and largely responsible for the sorry-state of affairs on the continent. Some have argued that our rulers are pressured by their western counterparts to submit to their demands. But a shameful request of Francois Bozize, president of Central African Republic (CAR), for American and French intervention in the central African country shows that some African leaders -without any pressure from the usual suspects - actually solicit western intervention.

On Thursday 27 December 2012, Francois Bozize expressly asked France, his country's former colonial master, and the U.S. to intervene in the internal affairs of CAR and help stop the advance of rebels seeking to overthrow his government. The president reportedly said "the French are our cousins. They should fix what is happening." [Source]

It is unheard of for the president of a sovereign country to expressly seek western intervention in his country's internal affairs. As a matter of fact, many countries that are truly independent abhor foreign intervention. Slain Muammar Gaddafi of Libya would attest to this - if he could.

The last time I checked, CAR became an independent state since August 1960. After more than 50 years of independence, the country should be able to fix what is happening. Unfortunately, misrule is dragging the country into instability and neo-colonialism.

President Bozize's request, in my opinion, is a disgrace to the continent and a source of embarrassment to its people - especially those who argue that African countries can handle their affairs. Bozize's request is an indication, that perhaps the West does not always impose itself on Africa - some African leaders actually solicit western intervention.

A quick search on the internet reveals that President Francois Bozize came to power through a bloody military coup that deposed a civilian government under President Ange-Felix Patasse in March 2003. Renegade general Francois Bozize, who reportedly served as army chief of staff under his predecessor, formed a "transitional government" and was affirmed as president after elections in 2005. He was re-elected in 2011 after a controversial election regarded as flawed. [Source]

Amnesty International reported in its 2012 annual report that Bozize's government imprisoned suspected critics together with their associates and family members. [Source] Freedom of expression is gagged under Bozize's rule and members of his security forces are accused of torture.

French and/or American intervention in the CAR to stop the rebels is not a lasting solution to the country's problems. President Francois Hollande of France rejected Bozize's call. Hollande reportedly said the days of French intervention in the internal affairs of a country are over. It remains to be seen whether France will keep its word in CAR and other countries in the region. According to an article published by the BBC, African governments with close ties to France have a poor record of governance, in terms of human rights, corruption and the concentration of power among a tiny ruling class. [Source] CAR - member of the so-called Francafrique - is, without a doubt, one of such countries with unhealthy ties to France.

The Seleka rebels who reportedly surrounded Bangui before Bozize cried out for help claim the government has broken its promises. President Bozize, a former rebel General, should return to the negotiation table and seek a political solution to the crisis. Military intervention by Western powers is not a sensible solution. President Bozize should also release prisoners of conscience, guarantee freedom of expression and put an end to torture and other ill-treatment as reported by Amnesty International.

*Photo of Francois Bozizi: LaMontagne.

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