After Successful Election, Central Africans Search For Respite
Despite Tuesday’s proclamation by the constitutional court confirming the election of former mathematics professor Faustin-Archange Touadera as President-elect of Central African Republic, it is not yet uhuru in the landlocked country and celebration may yet be on hold.
Prof Touadera, former prime minister under ousted leader Francois Bozize, amassed about 62 percent of the total vote and would be duly sworn in later this month –– to face the critical challenge of putting together a nation turned to shreds by political, communal and religious conflict.
The country suffered the worst crisis in its history in early 2013, when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters toppled Bozize. A mainly Christian group called anti-Balaka militias responded by attacking the Muslim minority. According to a United Nations figure, a fifth of the population have fled their homes to escape the violence. He may have scaled the first hurdle when the court rejected complaints lodged against the election by candidates who had supported Touadera’s opponent, Anicet-Georges Dologuele, and had asked for a recount or cancellation of the results.
Though, immediately after the decision, shouts of joy and car horns could be heard on the streets of Bangui, after the electoral commission announced initial results two weeks ago; the people may not in actual sense be celebrating the victory, another opportunity towards peace.
Since January 2014, when the interim government came to power, it has struggled to extend its influence beyond the capital, and inter-communal violence has flared in Bangui and elsewhere. And election had to be postponed a couple of times before it finally held on December 30, 2015. “We need a leader that can bring the two communities together,” a resident said.
Immediate challenge confronting Touadera is how to bring back an estimated 450, 000 people, who are still refugees in neighbouring Cameroun, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo. Another 460, 000 central Africans are displaced within the country, while some 36, 000 are believed to be living in enclaves. The President-elect is confronted with reining in armed groups or parts of the population that feel they have no real representation in the new government. The fear that the country could once again plunge into violence is ever so real.
According to reports, Ugandan-based Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel force abducted 217 people since January in the Central African Republic.
This is nearly double the number of abductions carried out by the group in 2015, said a group, LRA Crisis Tracker.
The abductees, including 54 children, may have been forced to become soldiers or sex slaves, it said.
Yet, Touadera has to keep more than an eye on the economy and how to arrest the crunching hunger pervading the country.
Earlier in the week, the World Food Programme (WFP) sounded the alarm that at least half of the population or 2.5 million people in the country are facing a hunger crisis. The body’s country director in Bangui, Bienvenu Djossa, disclosed that the number of people battling hunger had doubled from 2015 and serious interventions had to be implemented to ensure the crisis did not deteriorate. “It is serious. The situation is worse than last year,” Djossa said a statement.
According to him, “It is crucial that we continue helping the most vulnerable, who need emergency food assistance to survive. This is the time when people need the maximum help possible as it is also the lean season, when people struggle to have enough food to eat before the next harvest.”
The WFP said that families are so short of food that children receiving school meals under the WFP’s emergency programme put part of their serving in a plastic bag to take home. Families have been forced to sell their possessions, pull their children out of school and even resort to begging.
In the same light, the United Nations warned that the country may soon run into fresh crisis if the food crisis is not addressed urgently. The UN revealed that overall crop production in 2015 remained 54 percent below the pre-crisis average.
“Some 75 percent of people in CAR depend on agriculture, and with the planting season starting in less than two months, boosting agriculture now is crucial to revitalising the economy and to stability in the country,” the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation said in a statement.
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