Central African Republic President Touadara vows to tackle armed groups


Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera was sworn in for a second five-year term on Tuesday, vowing to eliminate armed groups and attract investment to the gold- and diamond-rich country wracked by prolonged political instability.

Touadera, 63, was re-elected in a December poll that was disrupted by militia attacks on major cities. The central African country has failed to find stability since a 2013 rebellion ousted former President Francois Bozize.

The latest rebel offensive was sparked by the top court’s decision to reject Bozize’s candidacy in the election.

Touadera said zero impunity for armed groups would be the core of his second mandate and thanked allies Russia and Rwanda, who have backed the Central African army. The United Nations also has a 12 000-strong peacekeeping force in the country.

“At the end of this mandate, there will be no active armed groups on the national territory,” Touadera said to cheers. “I want every Central African to live in peace and security.”

Central African Republic has been in a state of emergency since January, making it easier for the military to detain suspects in its crackdown on rebels.

Violence has subsided in the last two months and the army has retaken several towns from rebels who had occupied them since December, but insecurity remains widespread. Some 25% of the country’s 5 million population is displaced.

Touadera’s opponents dispute the election result and called for a repeat, citing irregularities and low turnout.

“Touadera’s mandate was obtained in circumstances that were widely criticized and is starting in a context of civil war, generalized insecurity, political contestation and the restriction of civil liberties on the grounds of the state of emergency,” said Christian Guenebem, head of former President Bozize’s Kwa na Kwa (KNK) party, in a statement on Monday.

Several opposition leaders have recently been banned from leaving the country, Guenebem said.

Touadera said that a national dialogue aimed to ease political tensions will start soon.

He also pledged to improve infrastructure, fight corruption and foster entrepreneurship in a ceremony attended by one head of state, Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye, and envoys of other countries.