A version of this post originally appeared on the Lesley on Africa blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
If you’ve been following the news on the Central African Republic over the past 13 months, you have probably seen many references to the country’s abundant mineral wealth, chronic instability, crushing poverty, sectarian (Christian vs. Muslim) strife, and allegations of genocide.
Some of the recent analysis and media reporting goes beyond these clichés, so I thought I’d highlight them and explain why these pieces present the reader with a more complex understanding of recent developments in the country.
Collectively, this reading list offers four things:
First, these readings offer background on Catherine Samba-Panza, previously the mayor of Bangui, who was elected last week as the interim president of the Central African Republic (CAR). Beyond the fact that Samba-Panza is the first female to hold this position in CAR, these pieces offer insight as to why she’s different from previous leaders and what challenges she will face as she spearheads the transition to an elected government by February 2015.
Second, these readings offer a background of the events leading to and during the transition earlier this month, such as why Michel Djotodia (former leader of the Séléka rebel coalition that toppled former president François Bozizé last March) had to go and the process that dictated the selection of candidates for interim president.
Third, these readings offer a better understanding of identity in the CAR beyond the Muslim/Christian labels, and gives the reader some perspective on notions of foreign-ness in the CAR and how they have come into play throughout the country’s history.
Finally, the readings offer context on the historical and contemporary role of foreign – European AND African – influence on conflicts in the Central African Republic, which is critical for understanding the geopolitics of the region. Major headliners are France (bien sûr!), Chad, Libya, and South Africa.
So without further ado, here’s some of the good coverage I’ve read over the past few weeks:
- Central African Republic’s new president ‘a fresh start’ from the Institute for Security Studies
- Central African Republic: The Third Government in Thirteen Months Gets Under Way from the International Crisis Group
- Genocide-mongering does nothing to help us understand the messy dynamics of conflict in the CAR on African Arguments (by Louisa Lombard, who also blogs at Foole’s No Man’s Land)
- France, Chad, Gaddafi and the CAR: years of meddling should not be ignored now on African Arguments
- South Africa in the CAR: Was pulling the troops a catastrophic mistake? from the Daily Maverick. (Last March, I had weighed in on the aftermath of South African casualties in the CAR with South Africa inspires a “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” in the CAR. Best title EVER, right?)
Si vous lisez français, the articles below offer background on the new interim president, and why her civil society roots and Chadian/Central African heritage may make her the right leader at the right time:
- Catherine Samba-Panza: «Maire de Bangui, j’ai toujours eu de bonnes relations avec tout le monde» (Q&A with Catherine Samba-Panza: “Mayor of Bangui, I have always had good relations with everyone”) from Radio France Internationale
- Centrafrique : 5 choses à savoir sur Catherine Samba Panza la nouvelle présidente de transition (Five things to know about Catherine Samba-Panza the new transitional president) from Jeune Afrique
- Catherine Samba-Panza, nouvelle présidente de Centrafrique: pourquoi elle (Catherine Samba-Panza, the new president of the Central African Republic: why her?) from Radio France Internationale