CAR: an iron lady takes charge.

Author:Nakombo-Sizwe, Jean-Pierre
Position::CAR - Central African Republic's Catherine Samba-Panza

THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) descended into chaos after a mainly Muslim rebel coalition, Seleka, with the material and moral support of France, according to knowledgeable political analysts, marched on the capital Bangui and seized power on 24 March 2013, killing 13 South African soldiers in the process.

A South African military contingent had been in the country since 2007, ostensibly to train CAR forces, but there was more to their presence. They were there, analysts pointed out, to shore up the tottering government of President Francois Bozize, which had been under pressure from the Seleka militia for a good few years, and also to safeguard the mining interests of some ANC members in the country.

With CAR being in France's sphere of influence, Paris did not take kindly to the South African presence, and so in March last year, before additional South African troops could arrive after Bozize had flown to Pretoria to ask for reinforcements, analysts say, France moved quickly to support the Seleka with military materiel to topple Bozize's government.

The South Africans, embarrassed by the speed of the rebel attack, were forced to pull out their forces after sustaining 13 fatalities and dozens of injuries.

The humiliating "defeat" raised a massive hue and cry in South Africa, leading to a government inquiry into how their troops got to be in CAR in the first place.

Nine months on, in December 2013, the regime that France supported in CAR began to unravel, after several months of violence between Muslim and Christian communities that has since left at least i,000 people dead in Bangui, and many more in the rest of the country.

For what the Seleka achieved was to install Michel Djotodia as president and unleash a fury of inter-religious conflict and retribution. It also created one million refugees and displaced people, with many homes, churches and mosques destroyed.

However, to describe this as simply a sectarian conflict is somewhat wide of the mark. There are also the hands of neighbouring countries and powerful international players at work.

Chad and Sudan are accused of backing the Seleka rebels, while CAR's southern and western neighbours--DRCongo, Congo-Brazzaville, and Cameroon--are not entirely disinterested observers in the drama.

As for international powers, as Louis Keumayou, the president of the Pan-African Press Association commented: "If we consider Chad as part of the problem, we can also consider that France is part of...

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