On March 30, the Central African Republic will usher in a new presidential era as sectarian tensions threaten to unravel the nation’s hard-earned peace. Faustin-Archange Touadera, former prime minister, and current president-elect will inherit a nation teetering on the edge of renewed violence.
Mr. Touadera’s career in national politics began in January 2008 when the former president, Francois Bozize, appointed him prime minister. His subsequent tenure in office was short and uncertain. President Bozize dissolved Touadera’s government within its first year in power, implementing a sweeping turnover of ministers. Reappointed in 2009, Touadera’s new coalition largely consisted of former rebel fighters, anticipating the demands of upcoming polls. His final dismissal came in 2013, following the government’s peace agreement with the Muslim Seleka rebel movement. Under the agreed terms, Touadera’s replacement would be appointed from the political opposition.
An academic for much of his professional life, Mr. Touadera has accrued only five years of experience in government. He holds degrees from three African universities and a doctorate in mathematics from Lille University of Science and Technology in France. Touadera served as president of a mathematics standardization committee for Francophone nations for two years before joining the administrative staff of the University of Bangui, the nation’s flagship institution. He served as both vice-chancellor and rector of the university from 2004 to 2008, most notably initiating the EUCLID Consortium – a partnership program with both African and European schools.
Although the president-elect ran as an independent in 2015, he previously identified with the Central African Republic’s controlling party – Kwa Na Kwa. Translated to “Work, Only Work,” this party was founded in 2009 in support of President Bozize and a philosophy of social democracy. Prior to 2009, Kwa Na Kwa was an unofficial convergence of like-minded parties insisting that Mr. Bozize run for the presidency. Their demands contradicted Bozize’s pledges not to seek election, which he originally promised after seizing power in the 2003 coup d’etat.
Touadera’s distance from the Kwa Na Kwa proved politically expedient, as the party announced they intended to run Bozize in last October’s scheduled elections. By the end of 2015, the Constitutional Court had excluded the former president from its list of approved candidates, a decision that was met with public outcry. Many citizens accused the French government of intervening and gunfire was reported throughout the capital of Bangui.
After more than two months of delays, elections finally took place on December 30, between Faustin Touadera and Anicet-Georges Dologuele, who represented the Union for Central African Renewal. As neither candidate garnered a majority, a second round was held on February 14 of this year. Amid extremely low voter turnout (roughly 24% of the population), Touadera won by more than twenty-five points, obtaining a 62.71% majority.
Mr. Touadera is arguably only the second fairly-elected head of state in the Central African Republic’s troubled history. He will preside over a nation attempting to reconcile a divisiveness that has fueled Muslim and Christian militias for over four years now. However, widespread clashes are not an inevitability. Touadera has several tenable policy options at his disposal to preserve security, protect human rights, and guarantee justice for all of its citizens.