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Power vacuum in CAR

Stefanie Duckstein / guJanuary 10, 2014

President Djotodia and Prime Minister Tiangaye of the Central African Republic have stepped down, bowing to pressure from regional leaders. A more inclusive transitional authority could fill the vacuum.

Thierry Vircoulon is speaking into a microphone.
Image: privat

The Central African Republic has been wracked by violence between Seleka Muslim and anti-balaka Christian militias. Hundreds have been killed. Almost a quarter of the country's population of four and a half million have been displaced. DW has spoken to Thierry Vircoulon, an expert on Central Africa at the International Crisis Group.

DW: After the negotiations in N'Djamena, the interim president, Michel Djotodia, and the prime minister, Nicolas Tiangaye, of the Central African Republic resigned. Did you expect these developments?

Thierry Vircoulon: The heads of the transitional authority had been summoned to N'Djamena yesterday (09.01.2014). Then it was pretty clear that their future would be discussed. It's fairly obvious that a lot of people are upset by the fact that the transition is a failure, and the dismissal of Mr. Djotodia and Mr. Tiangaye is a sanction taken by the region because of their inability to solve the crisis in the Central African Republic.

Who do you think was the main actor who forced this development? Was it the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS)?

It seems that the ECCAS played a key role. Chad, which is presently chairing the ECCAS, is also playing a key role in this. It is pretty clear from the beginning of this crisis that the regional bloc wants to keep it in the family, in a way, and wants to manage this crisis. And therefore they consider - and probably are right - that a political solution must be engineered by the region, and this way they are pushing back the African Union and the United Nations.

Where do you see France's role?

So far I think there have been some consultations, very likely between the capitals of the ECCAS countries and Paris. But it is clear that Chad and the ECCAS are in the driving seat.

Who are the strong players that could lead the country in the near future?

Well, there are no strong players, when you look at the political landscape. And maybe the people who are going to replace the heads of the transitional authority won't be politicians. They are speaking about some religious leaders and there is speculation about civil servants, etc.

What scenario do you see for the near future of the Central African Republic?

I think there is definitely one key unanswered question at the moment, and that's the one you're asking: Who will be replacing Michel Djotodia and Nicolas Tiangaye, and will the new transitional authority include some Seleka representatives and also some representatives of the anti-balaka groups. So how inclusive will that new transitional authority be?

It's fully clear that what is being done right now in N'Djamena is a repeat of the Libreville negotiation that happened in December, in the [sense] that in Libreville all the Central African political establishment was summoned there and the regional leaders imposed an inclusive government. I wonder if that is not going to be the same scenario right now in N'Djamena. And maybe we will have a more inclusive transitional authority in place, including both some Seleka representatives and some representatives of the anti-balaka.

Where do you see the role of the Seleka?

Officially speaking the Seleka does not exist anymore, so I don't know what kind of role they can play. I think some individuals can play a role, but we have to keep in mind that most of the Seleka ..., the people who were the political faces of the Seleka, are all now discredited. So the people that are left, in a way, are the military commanders. I know that some military commanders of the Seleka were also summoned to N'Djamena, which means that pressure has also been put on them by Chad and the other countries, and that they may be accommodated in one way or another.

Do you think the resignations have any impact on the humanitarian crisis, and will the violence stop now?

Of course not. This is not a magic bullet, and it will all depend on who will be the new transitional authority. This is now a sudden transition. We know that the transitional authority has been dismissed, but we don't know who is going to replace it.

Thierry Vircoulon is an expert on Central Africa and Project Director at the International Crisis Group based in Nairobi.

Interview: Stefanie Duckstein