56th Independence of the Central African Republic
Speech by H.E. Mr André Nzapayeke, Ambassador of the Central African Republic on the occasion of the celebration of the 56th Independence Anniversary of the Central African Republic
15 August 2016
I am really moved, every year, when I take the floor on this solemn occasion to express the joy that the Central African people feel on the occasion of the celebration of the 56th Independence Anniversary of our country, Central African Republic.
Photo: Ambassador Andre Nzapayeke of the Central African Republic (r) and Deputy Minister Godfrey Oliphant of Mineral Resources of SA pictured at the national day celebration hosted in Pretoria, South Africa.
Also, I would like first of all to thank you all for responding positively to my invitation and for coming in your numbers to share with the Central African community in South Africa these moments of celebration. I wish everyone a warm welcome to the chancery of the Central African Republic.
CAR, a former French colony once called Oubangui-Chari named after the two rivers that separate us from the DRC in the South and the Chad in the North, gained national sovereignty on 13 August 1960, as part of the political process that led the independence of the Central African State members of the former French Equatorial Africa whose capital was Brazzaville.
Barthélémy BOGANDA, the founding father of the CAR, friend of Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba, then President of the AEF, wanted in 1958 the creation of what he called the United States of Africa that would include, besides the 6 current Member States of CEMAC, the DRC and Angola. The Central African flag remained the symbol of the union of which BOGANDA dreamed, a convinced panafricanist, whose death in March 1959 brought an end to the realization of this ideal.
Therefore, it is without its consent that the CAR became independent in August 1960 in its current borders. During the following decades after its independence, the CAR, then known as the Switzerland of Africa was not sparing any effort to bring peace back in its neighboring countries.
However, as the country was committing itself to the consolidation of democracy and to socio-economic development after experiencing painful years of dictatorship and one-party system, came the unfortunate events that have a lasting impact in the flesh of CAR citizens.
These multiple rebellions that culminated in March 2013 with the seizure of power by the Seleka rebels causing the outbreak of fratricidal communal conflict with the so-called self-defense groups whose members are nicknamed Antibalakas. The following spiral of violence on the entire national territory has caused the State and the economy to collapse, led to many casualties, mass displacement of citizens within and outside the borders, destruction and looting of movable and immovable properties. The country was on the brink.
Faced with this disaster, the neighboring countries first, and then the international community, mobilized in a true spirit of solidarity to rescue the CAR in order to end a conflict that was manipulated to take the appearance of a religious conflict between Muslims and Christians, two communities that previously lived in perfect harmony.
As part of the solutions adopted to resolve the crisis, a transitional regime, headed as from January 2014 by a determined woman also known as "Madame Courage", Her Excellency Mrs Catherine Samba-Panza, was established and several peacekeeping missions - Misca, Sangaris, Eufor and Minusca from the United Nations - were also deployed for the stabilization of the country. The mediation of Congo Brazzaville, the key role played by Chad, Cameroon, DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Angola and France were determinant to avoid the complete collapse of the country.
Despite difficult circumstances, interim authorities organized successfully a referendum on a new Constitution on 13 December 2015, legislative and presidential elections on 30 December 2015, and the runoff of the presidential elections on 14 February 2016.
The process of the presidential elections has been finalized with the proclamation of Mr Faustin Archange Touadéra on 1 March 2016 by the Constitutional Court as the New President of the Central African Republic. This date marked also the end of the mandate given to the Interim regime and has opened a new era for the Central African Republic.
The elections took place in calm, serenity and transparency and can be considered as the most democratic elections of the history of the Central African Republic. The contender of Mr Touadéra, Anicet George Dologuele, demonstrated a great sense of patriotism by congratulating the new elected President immediately after the announcement of the results. The Head of the former Interim regime, Mrs Catherine Samba-Panza, is now back to normal life without fear for her security.
However, the people of the Central African Republic are the ones to be particularly commended for their dignity, as well as the Interim regime which succeeded in conducting the electoral process and in making sure that the rules of the democratic game were respected, thus allowing CAR to commence a new chapter of its history, which will hopefully lead to the consolidation of peace and democracy, and to the reconstruction of the country. The people of the Central Afford Republic count on the support of the international community, and especially on his African brothers and sisters to walk by his side on the path to peace and economic reconstruction.
On behalf of the Government and the People of the Central African Republic, I would like to express my gratitude to the Government of the Republic of South Africa, and to all those who never ceased to support the Central African Republic during these trying times and who assisted us to achieve a successful electoral process. The strong support of South Africa and of the International community was well appreciated by the people of CAR.
CAR is back in all regional and international organizations, but the task remains huge for the new national authorities democratically elected. They are empowered to restore the authority of the State in the entire country, to consolidate the safety of the people and property through the implementation of the disarmament and rehabilitation of the defense and security forces, to organize the return of displaced persons, to rebuild the judicial system and to revive the economic activity.
The security issue remains indeed the top priority, and it is closely linked to the lifting of the arms embargo by the United Nations Security Council. Besides that, the lifting of restrictive measures imposed by the Kimberley Process to the marketing of the Central African diamonds is among the priorities of the cabinet. The Government needs this source of income to boost economic activity and meet the sovereign needs of the State.
The path is long and the task daunting but the Central African people are determined to move forward and the ongoing support from CAR's friends and investors from theses countries will be necessary in this decisive phase of the crisis exit process.
CAR welcomes and encourages South Africa to pursue its efforts to support the stabilization of African States that are still experiencing conflicts, especially those bordering CAR.
These efforts should not be disconnected from the merciless fight against international terrorism, the jihadism of Boko Haram, AQMI, El and the proliferation of weapons from Libya. CAR is unfortunately, due to its geographic location, at the heart of this fight.
Regarding the fight against the LRA of Joseph Kony, the CAR would like to thank Uganda, the United States and the African Union for their efforts and wishes a greater mobilization from the International community to enable us to terminate once and for all these criminals.
Supporting the consolidation of peace and socio-economic development of the CAR is also protecting the northern border of SADC, but also those of countries in the EAC, the Great Lakes and the entire Congo Basin.
The CAR people notice with great satisfaction that our African brothers and sisters along with those of other continents have understood what is at stake and spare no effort to help the CAR to leave definitively this long tunnel.
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Your Excellencies, Representatives of International Organizations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As President Zuma put it in his congratulatory message to President Touadera, and I quote: "The people of the CAR are tired of violence and instability. They are seeking a better future based on peace, reconciliation, stability and development. They deserve nothing less".
South Africa has always demonstrated to the Central African people his unwavering friendship. Us, Central African, are indebted to this nation of Nelson Mandela. We will always be at your side and know that we can also count on you, because as the most illustrious son of Africa said : "The path to freedom and prosperity for our people is long and it is only together that we will arrive at the top of the mountain".
To walk along this long road together and consolidate the active cooperation between our two peoples, I would urge the South African Government to proceed with the opening in the near future of its diplomatic mission in Bangui, capital city of the Central African Republic as promised.
Addressing myself to you dear compatriots, I urge you to continue to worthily represent our country in the host country, South Africa, whose stability of the democratic system should inspire us.
Our country has huge agriculture and mineral resources and a young population. We must therefore do everything to attract South African investors in the CAR to help us create jobs and wealth and improve the leaving conditions of our population. We also need the South African NGOs to help us in the programs of dialogue and national reconciliation, universities to train our people and enable us to build the capacity of the State. In order to achieve this, your good reputation in this country is essential.
I wish you a happy Independence Day in dignity.
I respectfully invite you and the audience to raise our glasses in a toast to the health of our two Heads of State: President Jacob Zuma and President Faustin Archange Touadera.
To the Prosperity of our two peoples, and to the active cooperation between CAR and the sister Republic of South Africa.