Though elected early this year, Central African Republic’s new president has no army to command or civil service to call on. He still fills in as a university maths lecturer due to lack of teaching staff.
But this week could offer Faustin-Archange Touadera a lifeline, as donors come together in Brussels to plot a future for the country. The CAR is strategically positioned at the heart of Africa, but ravaged by three years of intense inter-religious strife.
He hopes Thursday’s donor conference generates a massive financial shot-in-the-arm for the around five million residents of one of the world’s poorest nations.
“We have come a long way and we need to rebuild the country,” 59-year-old Touadera told AFP in an interview. “We’re working in favour of peace but our situation remains extremely fragile.”
That will be the message that the academic will want to send to prospective donors. The doors include the European Union, the IMF, the World Bank, France and the United States.
Despite the presence of a 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force — MINUSCA — Touadera’s Bangui-based government has failed to establish control over the entire country.
Efforts to disarm the pro-Muslim and pro-Christian militia groups have failed, with bloodshed once again making a resurgence. The two opposing groups are responsible for thousands of deaths and the displacement of half a million people. One in 10 Central Africans citizen is internally displaced.
Recent weeks have seen fresh flare-ups of the militia violence. The violence began with the 2013 ouster of Christian president Francois Bozize. A largely Muslim rebel group was responsible for Bozize’s ouster. This, consequently, triggered revenge attacks and a spiral of atrocities between the two communities.
Regional stability is at stake
French troops who deployed in late 2013 amid fears of a sectarian bloodbath left earlier this month.
The plight of those displaced by the three-year conflict remains all too visible. Many are still clustered in squalid conditions along the tarmac of Bangui’s M’poko airport. This is despite the fact that the all-out fighting has ended.
In the absence of a competent national security force, UN peacekeepers watch over security at the airport as well as at the presidential palace.
Touadera, who continues to teach at the university between meetings, will on Thursday set out his priorities to donors.
Disarmament, restructuring the armed forces as well as national reconciliation will be top of his list. The launch of a special war crimes court and providing basic social will also be top priorities.
Touadera said he hoped to secure pledges worth “$1.6 billion (1.5 billion euros) over three years and three billion over five years”.
Touadera told AFP he had been asked to pledge to use the funds appropriately.
“A key element is fighting corruption,” he said.
But opposition leader Anicet-Georges Dologuele warned that it might prove difficult for the country “to absorb an enormous amount in five years. We will need a lot of professionalism”.
France, the former colonial power, is maintaining a couple of hundred troops in the country because “regional stability is at stake” as Boko Haram jihadists shore up their bases in Nigeria and northern Cameroon, according to a French source who asked not to be named.
The US too is maintaining around 100 special forces in eastern Central Africa near the border with South Sudan. The target is to ward off trouble from Ugandan rebels.