Emerging: President Touadéra Seeks Victory

President Touadéra

In what opponents are denouncing as a sham, provisional results from a recent referendum in the Central African Republic (CAR) indicate that 95% of voters have endorsed constitutional changes enabling President Faustin-Archange Touadéra to seek unlimited re-election. However, critics have raised serious doubts about the legitimacy of the referendum, citing abysmally low voter turnout that some claim was as low as 10%.

Civil War

The backdrop against which this referendum was held is significant. CAR generally remains deeply entrenched in a civil war, displacing a third of its population from their homes. Amidst this turmoil, President Touadéra enjoys the backing of the Russian Wagner private military group, who have deployed additional fighters in the lead-up to the referendum to bolster security.

Accusers particularly point to Wagner forces for war crimes. Their support of Touadéra against rebel factions intensifies the conflict, which these groups control in significant parts of the country. Notably, the Wagner group reportedly engages in the lucrative trading of minerals and timber.

Constitutional Changes

The proposed constitutional changes include the removal of the existing two-term limit for presidents, extending the presidential mandate from five to seven years, and imposing restrictions on politicians with dual citizenship from running for the presidency unless they renounce their other citizenship.

Human Rights Watch has voiced concerns about these amendments, linking them to the memories of anti-Balaka militias that targeted Muslims based on their perceived association with Séléka rebels during the 2013 conflict. This civil strife resulted in hundreds of deaths and continues to impact the nation.

Opposition parties and civil society groups opted to boycott the referendum vote on July 30, labelling it a “constitutional coup” engineered to prolong Touadéra’s rule indefinitely. These groups argue that lack of transparency and inadequate consultation with stakeholders marred the electoral process.

Senate and Parliament

Central to the constitutional changes is the creation of a new position of vice-president, appointed by the president. Additionally, the proposed amendments envisage the abolishment of the Senate and the transformation of the parliament into a single chamber.

Touadéra’s United Hearts Party and the president himself maintain that they are merely acting in accordance with the “will of the people.” Despite these claims, the final results have yet to be disclosed by the election authority, leaving the situation fraught with tension and uncertainty as the nation navigates its way through this pivotal phase of its history.