Central African Republic President Touadéra’s Constitution Changes Spark Controversy

In a recent referendum, the president of the Central African Republic (CAR) has secured the right to run for office as many times as he wants. However, this move has been met with widespread criticism and labeled a farce by opponents. While provisional results indicate that 95% of voters backed the changes, critics argue that the low turnout, estimated to be as low as 10%, undermines the legitimacy of the referendum.

The Central African Republic is currently embroiled in a civil war that has caused significant displacement, uprooting a third of the population from their homes. President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, who is supported by Russian Wagner mercenaries, received additional fighters prior to the referendum to bolster security. However, these forces have faced allegations of committing war crimes as they support President Touadéra in his battle against rebel groups.

One of the key changes proposed by the new law is the elimination of the two-term limit for the presidency, allowing the president to extend his mandate from five to seven years. Additionally, the law would prohibit politicians with dual citizenship from running for president unless they renounce their second nationality. Critics argue that these amendments consolidate power in the hands of President Touadéra and may undermine democracy in the country.

Human Rights Watch, a prominent campaign group, has highlighted that these changes evoke painful memories of past conflicts. In the 2013 civil conflict, anti-Balaka militias targeted Muslims based on their perceived association with Séléka rebels, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Opposing parties and civil society groups chose to boycott the referendum, denouncing it as a “constitutional coup” aimed at entrenching President Touadéra’s power indefinitely. Transparency concerns and a lack of prior consultation were also raised regarding the election process.

The proposed constitutional amendments include the establishment of a vice-president position, who would be appointed by the president. Additionally, the Senate would be abolished, and parliament would transition into a single chamber. President Touadéra and members of his United Hearts Party assert that they are acting in accordance with the will of the people; however, final results have yet to be released by the election authority.

This controversial referendum has sparked intense debate and has far-reaching implications for the Central African Republic. The outcome of this process has the potential to shape the country’s political landscape and may further exacerbate existing divisions. The involvement of Russian Wagner forces in supporting President Touadéra raises concerns about human rights violations and the exploitation of the country’s natural resources.

It is crucial for the international community to closely monitor the developments in the Central African Republic to ensure the protection of human rights, the promotion of democracy, and the establishment of a peaceful and inclusive political system. Efforts must be made to encourage transparency, national dialogue, and accountability to address the grievances and concerns of all parties involved. Only through such measures can stability and progress be achieved in the Central African Republic.