The former president of the Central African Republic (CAR), François Bozizé, has returned to the country more than six years after he was forced from power and fled abroad, his party said on Monday in a claim rejected by the government.
“François Bozizé has definitely been in the capital of the CAR since yesterday. These aren’t just rumours, it’s true,” said Bertin Bea, the secretary general of the Kwa na Kwa party.
Bea, speaking at a press conference held at party headquarters, promised: “In the coming days, François Bozizé will address his fellow countrymen.”
Bozizé’s son, Jean-Francis Bozizé, confirmed that his father was back in CAR but without giving any further details, reports FRANCE 24’s sister station RFI.
Government spokesman Maxime-Ange Kazagui dismissed the claim, saying, “This announcement doesn’t seem credible to me.”
Bozizé faces an international arrest warrant, initiated by the CAR in 2013, for crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide.
A former armed forces chief, Bozizé seized power in CAR, one of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries, in March 2003.
He held office for a decade before being overthrown by a coalition of mainly Muslim armed groups, the Seleka. His lawyers and supporters have persistently campaigned for the government to allow him to return.
Bea, in other comments, said, “Do not ask me how he arrived” back in the CAR.
Lasting peace remains elusive
After Bozizé fled, Seleka leader Michel Djotodia proclaimed himself president of the mainly Christian country.
Fierce fighting erupted between predominantly Christian and Muslim militia, prompting intervention by France, the former colonial power, under a UN mandate.
A UN force, MINUSCU, was deployed and presidential elections were held, with victory for former prime minister Faustin-Archange Touadera.
In February this year, the country made its eighth attempt at sealing a lasting peace, with an agreement between Touadera’s government and 14 rebel groups who control most of the country’s territory.
Nearly a quarter of the country’s 4.6 million people have fled their homes.
The CAR is ranked next-to-last, after Niger, on the 2018 UNDP’s Human Development Index, which compares longevity, education, and income per capita. Life expectancy is just 52.9 years.
In 2014, Bozizé was placed on a UN sanctions list for “committing or supporting acts” that undermined peace and stability – a reference to Bozizé’s support for Christian militias in 2013.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)