Credible Elections Lead to a New, Democratic Era in Central African Republic

I was honored to have participated in the U.S. Presidential Delegation to Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR), led by U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power, to attend the March 30 inauguration of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra. The people of CAR are celebrating a new chapter for their country, one defined by credible elections and a period of stability and calm not seen in several years. In the midst of those celebrations, and during the inaugural address, President Touadéra personally expressed his gratitude to the U.S. government for its continued support. The United States will continue to stand with the people of CAR as we work with the international community and the new government to bring about lasting peace and stability.

The U.S. Delegation enters the stadium for the inauguration inauguration of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra on March 30, 2016. [State Department photo]

Two years ago, CAR was on the verge of civil war -– and perhaps genocide. The mostly Muslim “Seleka” rebel coalition had been disbanded, but individual groups continued to fight and were killing -– and being brutally killed by –- Christian militias known as “anti-balaka.” Despite all of these challenges, on March 30 our U.S. presidential delegation witnessed the swearing-in of a democratically-elected President for this desperately poor and disadvantaged country.

In 2014 and 2015 alone, the U.S. government committed hundreds of millions of dollars to humanitarian assistance and aid programs for the people of CAR. These funds provided basic services, but also included funding for reconciliation and social cohesion programs. Additional funds support justice reform, security, and United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic’s (MINUSCA) peacekeeping operations, and these were further augmented by elections assistance funding. When the U.S. Ambassador to Bangui, Jeffrey Hawkins, stated that the United States is “deeply implicated in the development of CAR,” he said so with the knowledge that we are supporting real reforms and real progress, all with a long-term goal towards peace, stability, and regional growth.

Principal Deputy Assistance Secretary D. Bruce Wharton shakes hands with former Interim Central African Republic President Catherine Samba-Panza. [State Department Photo]

The United States has found key partners in CAR, including the former Transitional President Catherine Samba-Panza. An alumna of the International Visitor Leadership Program, a U.S. government professional exchange program, Samba-Panza displayed courageous leadership and judgment as she led her people through a difficult and violent transitional period. Now, we look forward to the opportunity of working just as closely with newly-inaugurated President Touadéra, a former university math professor, as he endeavors to break from previous corrupt and short-sighted policies by implementing his policy priorities of long-term security sector reform, good governance, justice and accountability, increased access and quality of education, and economic opportunity for all Central African citizens.

As Stuart Symington, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs and former U.S. Special Representative for the Central African Republic said, “a cycle of suffering has been stopped, and a cycle of opportunity -– to change lives for the better -- has begun.” The United States stands alongside the Central African people and President Touadéra as they work towards a more unified, peaceful, and prosperous future. Much remains to be done in CAR, but we must not forget to acknowledge how much has already been accomplished in such a short time. We should celebrate with the people of the Central African Republic -- celebrate our partnership, our engagement, and our influence, which has helped lead this war-torn country into a new, democratic era of its history.

About the Author: D. Bruce Wharton serves as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, U.S. Department of State.

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People Line up to Cast their Ballot in the Second Round of Presidential Election and First Round of Legislative Elections in Central African Republic.
Posted by D. Bruce Wharton
April 18, 2016

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