After decades of political decay and recent civil war, the Central African Republic is considered a “phantom state” (International Crisis Group) or a “failed state” (Freedom House). Everything that defines a modern state is almost nonexistent or exists in an elementary form, Landry Signé and Grace Kpohazounde write for the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog:
This state collapse exacerbated the profound social, ethnic, economic and regional divisions, and offered the opportunity for a political manipulation of religious divisions. Until the recent crisis, most Central African Republic presidents, with the exception of David Dacko in 1960 and Ange Felix Patassé in the first free elections in 1993, came to power in a coup, namely Jean-Bédel Bokassa in 1966, David Dacko in 1979, André Kolingba in 1981, François Bozizé in 2003 and Michel Djotojia in 2013. The acting president, Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet, and transition president, Catherine Samba-Panza, were not elected through universal suffrage.
The newly created U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), represents an opportunity to avoid repeating mistakes, build a sustainable peace and help domestic leaders create a conducive environment for democratic elections and transition, Signé and Kpohazounde contend:
With a broader scope than previous missions, MINUSCA will start implementing its mandate on Sept. 15. The CAR government and MINUSCA’s many tasks include: mobilizing and integrating various international and domestic peacekeeping efforts; reorganizing CAR security forces; disarming rebels; restoring rule of law and public institutions; and most important, ensuring a viable transition process in which to hold democratic elections. All of these will take time.
Delaying elections to build a sufficiently stable environment in which to hold the elections has a better shot at sustainable peace and can set the basis for future successful democratic development, they suggest.
Landry Signé is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, fellow at the Stanford University’s Center for African Studies and chairman of the Global Network for Africa’s Prosperity.
Grace Kpohazounde is a political affairs officer at the Office of the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations.