Friday, January 10, 2014

Return of Bozize? A Question of Sovereignty

Self-proclaimed President Djotodia has now left office leaving the world to wonder who should take over until elections can be held later in 2014.  One answer is the deposed former President Fran├žois Bozize.  Although Bozize came to power through a coup in 2003, he won elections in 2005 and 2011 and was the presiding over the country until he fled rebels in March of 2013.  Seeing that the job is vacant again and he was the last one elected and recognized as the leader of the Central African Republic, shouldn’t he be restored to his position?

The selection of the next leader of CAR is a decision that will upset some group or another in a country that has been destroyed by violence.  Former Seleka rebels may increase attacks on peacekeeping troops as their former Chief is no longer in charge, but they were already fighting peacekeepers.  There are more security forces in CAR now than any other time in recent history and more are preparing to enter the fray so they should be able to handle rebel fighters.  The bottom line is that even if some other person was selected to be the transitional leader there will be opposition. 

Is the international community enforcing the idea that the quality of a sovereign leader should determine if they stay in power?  In that case leaders from many different countries should be deposed and new leaders selected.  Bozize may not have been the most capable or effective leader for his country but he was internationally recognized as the sovereign.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Where have all the trees gone?

In many African capitals the ancient trees that once shaded colonial boulevards are being cut down, often for stated "safety" reasons, but usually the easy answer is not the true answer.  As recent conflicts in Africa demonstrate, the national government doesn't have to control the entire country to be the internationally recognized head of state, just the capital.  In many places the national government doesn't really try to govern border regions.  However, the capital is sacred and must be protected at all costs in order to preserve the head of state.  In the Central African Republic a "red-line" was drawn to keep the Seleka rebel coalition out of the capital, but the rest of the country was left at the mercy of the rebels.

Often roads are intentionally left in poor condition to slow the advance of rebels towards the capital so the military would have more time to react.  Checkpoints line the roads to the capital and slow movement.  In the cities, trees are cut down that could potentially hide snipers or provide protection from rebel troops.  Trees along the road also can limit the maneuverability of tanks and other armored vehicles.  The leafy green foliage that keeps the dust and temperatures down in the concrete jungle also obscures people on the ground from hovering attack helicopters.

With advances in air conditioning in vehicles and buildings its less essential for the more fortunate to have trees.  The more fortunate also have generators to power the climatized spaces so electricity isn't a problem.  Unfortunately, in the places where the trees are cut down the general population usually don't have access to affordable reliable electricity.  But if the leader only sees his people from behind bulletproof glass does he care?