The deposed leader of the Central African Republic, Francois Bozize, claims special forces from Chad attacked South African troops in Bangui last month, placing president Zuma in a curious position as he visits Ndjamena, the Chadian capital on Wednesday. By EMILIE GAMBADE and KHADIJA PATEL.
The deposed president of the Central African Republic, Francois Bozize, claims Chad attacked South African troops in Bangui last month. In an interview with the BBC, Bozize claimed that Chad had in fact attacked South African troops in CAR.
“Between Saturday the 23d and Sunday the 24th, we can confirm, that there has been an apparent support from an African country, and I do think so, Chad. It is those special forces, armed forces … that lead the Sunday morning operation that attacked the South African base that was in their way,” Bozize said.
Bozize, himself a rebel leader back in the day, came to power with the assistance of the Chadian army, and he was a close ally of Chad’s President Idriss Deby. The rebel insurgency in CAR, however, has been a threat to the security of Chad as well. CAR and Chad share a long and porous border.
“If there is a reversal, it is up to the Chad government to answer or give explanation about this,” Bozize said of the apparent change in his sentiments towards Chad.
Some 205,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by the recent conflict in the CAR. Chad itself already hosts several thousand refugees from CAR who have fled fighting over the years.
“Indeed, I agree that we had brotherly relationships between Chad and the CAR; a lot of Chadians live in the CAR and they never had any problems, and surely people from the CAR living in Chad never had any worries; but we are surprised by this behaviour, the reasons for which only the Chadian authorities can answer for,” said Bozize.
When the Sekela rebel insurgency first grew threatening last year, Bozize’s government claimed the rebels had swelled their ranks with mercenaries from Sudan, Nigeria and Chad. The rebels, however, have denied this; but Chad has not been averse to cross-border activities in the CAR.
It is not just Chad that Bozize has criticised in the BBC interview. He also laments the breakdown of his relationship with Congo-Brazzaville.
“It is the same situation; we had the same relationship with the Congo Brazzaville [as] the one we had with Chad,” he said.
More to the point, Bozize appears to have realised that his former allies will not risk their own national security to see him re-installed as CAR leader.
“I called President [Denis Sassou Nguesso] to say that I would like to be present at the Extraordinary Summit of Ndjamena tomorrow, but unfortunately it seems that the protocol gave a negative response,” he said.
After being told that a lot of people say he has only himself to blame, because he refused to comply with the Libreville Accords – the ceasefire agreement that Bozize signed with rebels in January – he replied:
“It makes me laugh; if there is someone who complied with the Libreville Accords, it is the power in place led by President Bozize,” he said, referring to himself in third person, later adding, “We have always done what was required from us.”
While Bozize mentions honouring the demands for the release of political prisoners, he neglects to talk about the rebels’ other demand for South African troops to be sent home. This is a demand that Bozize repeatedly rejected.
Bozize has consistently argued that the rebels have received international support. In the BBC interview, he indicated that he believed he had been the victim of an international conspiracy to get rid of him.
“This is all showing the very well-oiled plot by Seleka that is presented to the international community,” he said.
Bozize also traces back the roots of the insurgency to a petrol war, blaming American businessman Jack Grynberg for his woes.
President Zuma travels to Ndjamena on Wednesday, accompanied by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane; Minister of State Security, Dr Siyabonga Cwele; and the Minister of Defence, Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula.
But while they deliberate on the latest developments in CAR, Bozize himself feels no guilt for the shambles.
“My conscience is clear,” he said. DM