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Vol 40 No 2

Published 22nd January 1999

Central African Republic

Dubious democracy

Election results can be fixed but it will be more difficult to contain the military fall out

On 10 January, soldiers of President Ange-Félix Patassé’s Presidential Guard, led by General François Djadder Bedaya, set free Théophile Sonny Colé, veteran leader of the main union federation, the Union Syndicale des Travailleurs Centrafricains. Sonny Colé is now also coordinator of the new opposition alliance, the Union des Forces Acquises à la Paix et au Changement (Union of Forces Supporting Peace and Change, UFAPC). He had been arrested the previous day for writing a tract the President called ‘seditious’. Colé was beaten up during his arrest, losing two teeth and later needing stitches in his head; protest demonstrations followed. It is widely feared that these events, immediately after the general elections of November-December and six months before the presidential poll that is due at the end of June, could lead to worse violence. The parliamentary polls – theoretically supervised by 2,000 men of the Mission des Nations Unies en République Centrafricaine (Minurca) – elected 109 deputies. (The previous National Assembly had only 85 members. It was presided over by Hugues Dobozendi, number two in Patassé’s Mouvement de Libération du Peuple Centrafricain, MLPC, which has held power since 1993).

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