In a landmark ruling that has sent shockwaves throughout the Central African Republic, exiled former President François Bozizé has been sentenced in absentia to a lifetime of forced labor for his involvement in conspiracy and rebellion, as announced by authorities on Friday.
François Bozizé, 76, who had been living in exile in Chad until March of this year, when he relocated to Guinea-Bissau, is known to head an alliance of rebel factions known as the “Coalition of Patriots for Change” (CPC), which was formed in December 2020.
The verdict, which was delivered on Thursday, was revealed in a statement released by the Ministry of Justice and subsequently shared with Agence France-Presse (AFP). This significant legal action also saw two of Bozizé’s sons and 20 other co-accused, including prominent rebel leaders, receive identical sentences in absentia.
In addition to the charges of conspiracy and rebellion, they were also found guilty of compromising the internal security of the state and committing “murders,” as per the official judgement issued by an appeals court situated in the capital city of Bangui. Unfortunately, the judgement did not provide specific details regarding the time period involved in the alleged crimes.
Central African Republic has been marred by civil conflict since 2013 when Bozizé was ousted from power by Muslim-dominated armed groups. In an attempt to regain power, Bozizé had organized armed militias called the “anti-Balakas,” consisting mainly of Christian fighters.
Although the intensity of the conflict subsided in 2018, the nation continues to endure sporadic outbreaks of violence while grappling with severe poverty, solidifying its status as one of the world’s most impoverished countries.
This ruling against Bozizé and his associates is a significant development in the ongoing struggle for stability and justice within the Central African Republic, although it is likely to raise questions about the prospects for reconciliation and the country’s future political landscape.