Changing of the Guard All Too Common in the Central African Republic

President Michel Djotodia of the Central African Republic

President Michel Djotodia of the Central African Republic

Described by journalist Graeme Wood as a “black hole of governance at the center of the continent,” the Central African Republic has been plagued by conflict and coups since its birth. In the most recent unrest, President Francois Bozize (who himself led a coup to become president) was ousted by rebel forces that have been slowly pushing for a full takeover of the C.A.R.

Michel Djotodia, national defense minister turned rogue, entered the capital in late March with rebel forces and declared himself president. There were reports of heavy gunfire throughout the day the following Sunday as a United Nations official in Bangui called the situation “confusing and very tense.”

Characterized by fragile political and economic systems together with a weak military, the C.A.R. has repeatedly fallen victim to takeovers. Scholar Louisa Lombard, who has studied the country extensively, claims that “factionalism flourishes because heading up a rebel group is a good way to be taken seriously” in a country with weak political and civil institutions.

Seleka, the rebel movement that has taken responsibility for this most recent ousting, is a coalition of groups from around the country disenfranchised with the country’s kleptocratic government and its cronies. But after the ousting, Seleka lost control of itself. Unable to deal with the ensuing chaos, regional peacekeeping forces were called to stop the looting of businesses, U.N. offices, and hospitals. Although there are still areas of resistance from pro-Bozize forces, things are slowly returning to normal as Central Africans acclimate to this latest unscheduled changing of the guard.

How long until the next one?

Renee Lott is an intern at Foreign Policy in Focus.