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Chad and CAR coup

Mark CaldwellApril 4, 2013

At a summit in the Chadian capital regional leaders refused to recognize the self-proclaimed leader of the Central African Republic, Michel Djotodia.

Seleka rebels man a roadblock. Photo: SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images)
Image: AFP/Getty Images

At a summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) held in the Chadian capital N'Djamena, regional leaders refused to recognize Michel Djotodia as the new president of the Central African Republic (CAR). Following a coup, in which Djotodia's rebel Seleka coalition ousted elected president Francois Bozize in late March, the African Union suspended the Central African Republic.

DW: Ousted President Bozize is accusing Chad of backing the rebels who unseated him. How credible is that accusation?

Thierry Vircoulon: I think since the rebellion there have been a lot of rumors about the Chadian government. And I think those rumors seem to be credible because a lot of them are coming from Seleka fighters. I think there are quite a lot of testimonies now. What we can say with certainty is that among the rebels there are some Chadian fighters, just like there are also some Sudanese fighters. What remains to be made clear is for whom the fighters are working. Are those fighters fighting for the government of Chad, are they opponents of the Chadian government or are they just mercenaries? All these questions remain unanswered for the moment.

What possible motives could Chad have for backing a coup in the Central African Republic?

Chad has always been very involved in the politics of the Central African Republic. In 2003 when President Bozize organized a coup, he did it from Chad. So it's quite ironic that now he's accusing Chad of being behind his fall. Chad has a lot of economic interests in CAR, there are a lot of traders moving between the two countries, the economies of the two are very much linked. Last year President Deby went to Bangui and tried to reconcile the opposition and President Bozize. He didn't succeed but this shows how influential and important N'Djamena is in the politics of the Central African Republic.

Is Djotodia going to be able to secure regional backing for his coup at some later date or does he have too many powerful opponents?

I think the decision taken at the meeting of ECCAS states is definitely a compromise. They decided not to recognize Michel Djotodia as the president of CAR because, of course, the coup is unconstitutional. But at the same time they said a transitional authority has to be set up and they did not exclude Seleka, the rebel movement, from that transitional council. That means Djotodia could be part of the transitional council and could even become the chair.

The African Union has suspended the Central African Republic. What options does the AU have as far as this crisis is concerned?

The AU also issued targeted sanctions against the leadership of the Seleka alliance. I think at this stage they have exhausted all their options. What they did is to call on other international organizations, including the UN and ECCAS to issue the same type of targeted sanctions against the Seleka leadership.

Thierry Vircoulon is the Project Director for Central Africa with the International Crisis Group (ICG)

Interview: Mark Caldwell