25 March 2013

Central African Republic: African Press Review 25 March 2013

Rebel soldiers (file photo).

Events in the Central African Republic and the death of one of Africa's greatest storytellers are among the stories in today's papers...

We'll start with the Central African Republic.

According to a statement from the rebel coalition Seleka, published by the privately-owned web site centrafrique-press, the population is asked to remain calm while preparing to welcome the coalition's revolutionary forces. There will be no reprisals or revenge attacks.

Promising peace and national unity, the Séléka rebels offer to launch a healthy development policy, based on the Libreville agreement signed in January between Bozizé supporters, the political opposition and the rebels. That deal notably promised the holding of free and fair elections within the next three years.

The same news site offers to explain how President François Bozizé lost his allies.

Bozizé came to power ten years ago, dislodging the then president Ange-Félix Patassé, with the aid of Chadian soldiers and the French air force.

But, in the face of Bozizé's increasingly authoritarian style of government, Paris and Njemena began to cool to the relationship. South Africa has continued to offer military support, but that has not been enough to save the Bozizé regime.

The former president has reportedly landed at Batouri in the east of Cameroon. That news has been confirmed by the Cameroonian Defence Minister, who added that Bozizé was subsequently escorted to the regional capital, Bertoua.

Other familiy members and a large number of the president's inner circle are reported to have crossed the Ubangi river into the town of Zongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The rebel take-over has been criticised by the African Union as a blatant breach of the Libreville agreement. French president François Hollande has called for calm and concertation. The French leader has discussed the situation with UN chief Ban Ki Moon, as well as with Chad's Idriss Deby and Jacob Zuma of South Africa. Paris has sent additional troops to secure the airport at Bangui and protect French interests.

In South Africa, financial paper BusinessDay reports that the Pretoria government is reviewing its peacekeeping position in the Central African Republic after reports that South African soldiers had been killed in clashes with the Séléka rebel coalition on Sunday.

A government source said on Sunday that South Africa was still assessing the situation, which included whether its troop deployment would have an effect in bringing peace.

Reports said six soldiers may have been killed and more injured as the rebels seized control of the capital, Bangui, forcing President Francois Bozizé to flee.

According to BusinessDay, the rebels takeover has cast doubt on South Africa's peacekeeping capabilities and is seen as a blow to African Union efforts to use African forces to stabilise fragile governments. It puts to the test the AU's policy of nontolerance of forceful takeovers of democratic governments.

The same Johannesburg-based paper bids a fond farewell to the man BusinessDay describes as "Africa's finest griot".

Griots are storytellers who pass on the history of their people to successive generations. Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, who died last Thursday at the age of 82, was undoubtedly Africa's finest.

A member of the Igbo ethnic group, he introduced his people's culture and cosmology to the world through simple prose based on local folklore and oral traditions rich with proverbs.

Nelson Mandela famously described Achebe as having "brought Africa to the rest of the world" and noted that "the prison walls fell down" whenever he read Achebe. South African Nobel laureate, Nadine Gordimer, described Achebe as "gloriously gifted with the magic of an ebullient, generous, great talent".

Achebe consistently challenged European narratives of Africa for dehumanising its people and denying them their past. As Achebe liked to say, "Until the lions produce their own historian, the story of the hunt will glorify only the hunter."

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