Amnesty International Report 2005 - Central African Republic

Covering events from January - December 2004

Hundreds of women raped in late 2002 and early 2003 by combatants received no redress and those responsible were not brought to justice. Journalists who criticized influential individuals or the government were detained; some were sentenced to prison terms and fined. Several former government officials arrested in 2003 remained in custody without trial; one was acquitted and released.


Insecurity remained a major concern, although the country was more politically stable than in previous years. In April, armed clashes occurred in the capital, Bangui, between government forces and former combatants awaiting demobilization. There were reports of Chadians in the national army deserting to join the insurrection. At least six people were killed and 16 others injured during the fighting. The former combatants were demanding adequate remuneration for their role in the war that brought President François Bozizé to power in 2003. They were removed from Bangui in May and sent to the north of the country. Some Chadian former combatants were reportedly returned to Chad. Their removal from Bangui was carried out with the support of the peacekeeping force backed by the Monetary and Economic Community of Central Africa (Communauté Economique et Monétaire d'Afrique Centrale, CEMAC).

President Bozizé appointed an electoral commission composed of representatives of political parties, civil society organizations and government officials to organize and supervise the elections. A national census was carried out in October. A new constitution, which limits the presidential term of office to two five-year terms, was adopted by referendum in December. Soon after the referendum, President Bozizé issued a decree slating presidential and legislative elections for February 2005. At least 15 people, including former President Patassé and President Bozizé, declared their candidature for the presidency.

French military experts remained in the country supporting CEMAC, as well as training specialized units of the Central African security forces.

In November, a new law on freedom of the press, drafted with the financial and logistical support of the UN Office in the Central African Republic, was adopted by the transitional parliament known as the National Transitional Council (Conseil national de transition, CNT). Under the new law libel and slander would not be punishable by imprisonment.

Violence against women

The government took no action to bring to justice combatants who systematically raped hundreds of women in late 2002 and early 2003 during the armed conflict which culminated in the overthrow of the government in March 2003. The conflict was between an armed political group led by François Bozizé and the forces of the then President Ange-Félix Patassé. Their respective foreign supporters from Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were also involved in the fighting. According to most survivors, witnesses and human rights and humanitarian representatives, most of the perpetrators were members of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (Mouvement de libération du Congo, MLC), an armed political group from the neighbouring DRC which had entered the Central African Republic in October 2002, at former President Patassé's request.

Some women were reportedly killed after being raped; others died of their injuries. Children and elderly women were among the victims.

Female genital mutilation continued to be practised, despite a 1966 law banning it.

  • Five members of the Presidential Guard who raped a woman in custody in October 2003 were tried by a military court, which found them guilty and sentenced them to five years' imprisonment in January 2004.

Journalists and press freedom

Before a new press law was adopted by the CNT, a number of journalists who published articles critical of the government or of people in positions of power were arrested and detained; some were held for several months. The government's action appeared to contradict President Bozizé's declaration in 2003 that press offences would be decriminalized.

  • Jude Zossé of L'Hirondelle newspaper was arrested in February accused of insulting the head of state. The newspaper had published an article alleging that President Bozizé had personally collected and diverted taxes. Jude Zossé was found guilty and sentenced to six months' imprisonment in March. He was released following a presidential pardon in May.
  • Alexis Maka Gbossokotto was arrested in July and detained after his newspaper, Le Citoyen, published an article alleging that a director of a state company had been involved in mismanagement of the company's funds. President Bozizé removed the director from his position soon after the article was published. In August, Alexis Maka Gbossokotto was found guilty of insulting the former director and given a one-year suspended sentence and fined US$920. He was released soon after his trial.

Detention of government opponents

Several former government officials detained in 2003 remained in custody at Ngaragba central prison in Bangui. Noël Nditifei Biangaye and Evelyne Loudégué were awaiting trial while on provisional release, while Simon Kulumba was allowed out of prison for medical treatment. Gabriel Jean-Edouard Koyambounou was tried in December and released after the Court of Appeal acquitted him of the charge of embezzling public funds. Tobi Kozo, also charged with embezzlement, was still awaiting trial at the end of the year.


Two brothers, army Colonel Danzoumi Yalo and Sani Yalo, who were arrested in December 2003 after they were accused of involvement in a plot against the government, were released in March without charge.

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