Former Central African Republic leader accused of genocide returns from exile


Former Central African Republic president Francois Bozizé returned to the country last week. He has spent the last 6 years in exile and has indicated that he will run in the December 2020 presidential election.

Bozizé returns to a country wracked with conflict, partly due to the corruption, nepotism, and abuse of his presidency. Over 75 percent of the country remains under the control of armed groups.

Bozizé fled the Central African Republic in March 2013 as the Seleka, a mostly Muslim rebel coalition from the northeast, took control of the country amid widespread abuse. The Seleka gave rise to local militias, called anti-balaka, who in turn targeted Muslim civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Bozizé returns under United Nations Security Council sanctions for supporting and encouraging anti-balaka attacks. An international arrest warrant issued by Central African authorities in 2013 accuses Bozizé of “crimes against humanity and incitement of genocide.” A Special Criminal Court, established by law in June 2015, has a mandate to cover crimes committed while Bozizé was president.

Bozizé’s presidential guard is accused of killing at least hundreds of civilians and burning thousands of homes during unrest in the mid-2000s. Some of the starkest crimes committed during his presidency occurred at the Bossembélé military training centre, commonly called “Guantanamo.”

Bozizé’s return will have political ramifications whether or not he runs for president. But it also presents the Central African Republic’s new government and its international partners an important opportunity to prosecute alleged crimes committed by Bozizé and his supporters and end the widespread impunity that marks the country’s current crisis. (Source: HRW)