The Central African Republic’s former president François Bozizé on Saturday announced he would run in a presidential election in December, a high-risk vote in an impoverished country that has been ravaged by civil war since his overthrow in 2013.
Bozizé, who returned from exile in Uganda in mid-December, was chosen to be his party’s candidate at a congress in Bangui.
“I solemnly accept the task you have assigned me,” he told supporters, announcing he would run in CAR’s presidential election in December.
The former president took power after a 2003 coup, before being overthrown himself 10 years later by Michel Djotodia, head of the mainly Muslim Seleka rebellion in the predominantly Christian country.
Since then, the poor landlocked country has spiralled into bloodshed, marked by vicious intercommunal violence.
France intervened militarily in its former colony from 2013 to 2016 to push out the Seleka, winding down the operation after Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected president.
Touadera governs today with the support of a large UN peacekeeping operation, but most of the country is controlled by ex-rebels and militias.
The government signed a peace deal in February 2019 with 14 armed groups, who typically claim to defend the interests of specific communities or religions.
Violence has since generally receded, but there are still bloody flare-ups, typically sparked by fighting over resources.
The fighting has forced nearly a quarter of the country’s 4.7 million people to flee their homes.
Bozizé is still under sanctions by the United Nations for his role in the 2013 crisis, during which he is accused of supporting the Christian anti-Balaka militias.
At the end of January, he said that “nothing” would prevent him from running as a candidate in the president election and that he would ask the UN to consider dropping the sanctions against him.
Bozizé will very likely run against the incumbent Touadera, whose candidacy has not yet been officially announced, even if observers regard it as a certainty.