KAMPALA — Francois Bozize, the former president of restive Central African Republic (CAR), who was ousted in a coup in 2013 has returned to the country after six-years in exile, a government top official said Thursday.
He has been living secretly in Uganda.
Observers of that country’s violent political history have already expressed fear that his presence in Bangui could spew tensions and heighten the already fragile situation before next year’s presidential election.
The secretary general of his Kwa Na Kwa party says Bozize intends to address the nation in the coming days. Bertin Bea, did not specify on which subjects particularly would the 73-year-old talk to his sympathizers, who opine that his overthrow is to blame for violence that has wrecked the nation since 2013.
Bozize, a former army General who overthrew former ruler Ange-Félix Patassé in a “surprise military coup” in 2003 fled to Cameroon via Democratic Republic Of Congo as rebels zeroed on the presidential palace on March 24, 2013.
He has since been indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to CAR’s long civil war and political unrest. A government official says they were prepared to deal with the consequences of his presence.
“While his presence poses some questions that will be handled with respect by the government and the international community, Francois Bozize is a central African citizen and former president who deserves respect, owing to his rank,” Minister of Communications Ange Maxim Kazagui said in a statement on Thursday.
CAR is due to hold elections next year. Bozize’s son, Francis Bozize has declined to comment about speculation that his father was considering contesting presidential elections according to financial news channel Bloomberg.
After seizing power, Bozize hurriedly organized an election in May 2005, which he won amidst allegations of irregularities. In this, he sought to legitimize his government as rebels mounted resistance, in what was known as Central African Republic Bush War immediately after he ousted Patassé.
In 2011, Bozizé was reelected in another controversial election. A loose coalition of rebel groups, known as Seleka and made up mostly of Muslims who had long complained of being marginalized by government were reported to be taking control of lead towns in the northern and central regions by November 2012. Their attacks culminated into Bozize’s Overthrow in 2013.
The Seleka leadership was reportedly cruel and repressive, leading to formation of Christian-linked militia movements, called “anti-Balaka”, and known for their notorious military operations. This has since heightened the conflict.
Despite electing a new leader in 2016, the country remains mired in political instability and inter-communal violence. Fighting has killed hundreds of thousands with the U.N. currently warning that More than 1.6 million people facing Crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity.