The Central African Republic, a landlocked country which borders were established by the French in the 19th century, has been marred by political instabilities since its independence in 1960.
It started with the coup d’Etat led by Jean-Bédel Bokassa on December 31, 1965 against the first president of the Republic, David Dacko. Then France, in September 1979, overthrew now Emperor Bokassa whose excesses had started to anger Centrafricans. They installed Dacko, who unfortunately was again overthrown by General André Kolingba in September 1981.
Things seemed to go well for a bit even if Kolingba wanted to hold onto power. Pressures coming in from France, but also the United States and even Germany forced him to hold elections in which Ange-Félix Patassé emerged as the winner. In 2003 however, another coup d’Etat, this time led by General François Bozizé, kicked Patassé out of the presidential seat. In 2012, a coalition of rebel groups took parts of the country and by 2013, Bozizé was obliged to flee the country. Michel Djokodia became the president but by January 2014, he had resigned and Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of the capital Bangui and an independent politician, became the country’s interim president.
It was hoped that the 58 year-old would have helped quelled the spate of violence between the different rebel groups: the Séléka representing the Muslim rebel groups and the Balaka, the Christian rebel groups. For Catherine Samba-Panza, her mission was to unite the country and lead it on the road to elections, and peace. Since taking power in 2014, or being handed a poisoned chalice according to some observers, the task has been arduous for President Samba-Panza. Violence has continued to mar the landlocked country. Still, the election which took place on Wednesday was reported to have passed with “no serious incidents” according to Balla Kéita, the commander of the UN peacekeeping forces in the country.
For the 1.8 million people who registered to vote, peace is the leitmotiv.
“I voted for peace,” one voter said while others like Gradias Vara, a businessman, voted in order “to be free to get back to our professions. We want to put an end to the conflict.”
The preliminary result will be announced in the coming days and one hopes that Centrafricans will know the peace they so long for.