This is a guest post by Emily Mellgard, research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program.
Michel Djotodia’s long held political aspirations came to an ignominious end last week when he resigned as the Central African Republic’s (CAR) chief of state and went into exile in Benin. Prime Minister Nicolas Tiengaye also stepped down.
The 135 members of the Transitional National Council (TNC), many of whom were appointed by Djotodia, were flown to the Chadian capital N’Djamena to attend a summit of the leaders of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). The Central African Constitutional Court and ECCAS have charged the TNC with selecting the new leadership of the CAR. They have fifteen days. Whoever is selected as interim president will be ineligible to run in the next elections. Alexandre Ferdinand Nguendet, the head of the TNC, is expected to be among those who put their names forward. Full elections are to be held by February 2015.
There were celebrations in the capital Bangui on the announcement of Djotodia’s resignation. Their rapid degeneration into violence and score settling, however, highlights that little has changed.
While the TNC deliberates, the majority of Central Africans continue to struggle with the consequences of government failure. Violence, chaos, poverty, and disease are rife. Nearly one million people have been displaced by the current round of fighting, over two million (half the population) are in need of humanitarian assistance, and over one thousand have been killed. Ex-Seleka (“Alliance”) and rival anti-balaka (“anti-machete”) militias, as well as local vigilantes scour the country. A tent city has sprung up in the shadow of the camp for the France’s 1,600 peacekeeping troops outside Bangui as residents flee continued violence. The camp grew more than five-fold from mid-December and currently shelters over 100,000 people. Others are disbursed throughout the country, fearful of returning home. Doctors Without Borders says hygiene is a “disaster” and “epidemics of all sorts” are highly likely.
Nguendet’s recent statement that “the anarchy [is] over” is false. Whatever the culmination of the current discussions within the TNC, any successor government will be hard pressed to reverse the state failure. While politicians, and even some militia leaders, appear to be fully engaged in wrangling for their own power, the CAR continues to implode.
David Smith, a regional expert, suggested in South Africa’s Daily Maverick that a UN transitional administration, such as was set up in Kosovo, might be the best option to ensure long term national stability and reconciliation in contrast to another short term political stop-gap. With the growing concern of a potential repeat of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, the international community and the African Union should give serious consideration to Smith’s suggestion. In addition to Kosovo, Namibia is a successful African precedent for a UN transitional administration during its transition from South African rule to full independence in 1990.