President Faustin Archange Touadera of the Central African Republic emerged victorious over Francois Bozize in the 2016 elections.
- Former Central African Republic president Francois Bozize initially gained power through a coup in 2003.
- Bozize, along with his two sons and other co-accused, has received a life sentence of forced labor.
- Since being overthrown in 2016 with the assistance of the United Nations, the former president has been living in exile.
Francois Bozize, the exiled former president of the Central African Republic who currently leads a rebel coalition, has been sentenced to life imprisonment with forced labor for conspiracy, rebellion, and murder in the chronically unstable country.
Bozize, who seized power in the CAR in 2003 but was ousted a decade later, was convicted in absentia on Thursday, as stated in a judgment received by AFP from the ministry.
Two of Bozize’s sons and 20 other co-accused, including rebel leaders, also received the same sentence in absentia.
According to the judgment from an appeals court in the capital city of Bangui, they were also found guilty of compromising internal security and committing “murders.”
The judgment did not provide details regarding the specific time period or crimes implicated.
Bozize, 76, who resided in Chad until March when he relocated to Guinea-Bissau, leads an alliance of rebel groups known as the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), formed in December 2020 with the aim of overthrowing Bozize’s successor, Faustin Archange Touadera.
Ali Darassa, the military leader of the main militia group within the CPC alliance, was among those sentenced in Bangui.
The Central African Republic, one of the world’s most impoverished nations, has been plagued by civil war since 2013 when a predominantly Muslim armed coalition called the Seleka ousted Bozize.
In an attempt to regain power, Bozize established armed militias, predominantly Christian, known as the anti-Balakas.
The intensity of the conflict diminished in 2018, but the country still experiences sporadic violence and remains deeply impoverished.
Thousands of civilians lost their lives, and both sides have been accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity by the United Nations.
In 2013, France, the former colonial power, intervened militarily in the chronically unstable country to help quell the civil war that was escalating along sectarian lines.
The intervention and the deployment of UN peacekeepers paved the way for the 2016 elections, which were won by Touadera.
Two years later, Touadera enlisted the assistance of fighters from Russia’s Wagner mercenary group to train his armed forces, and in 2020, he brought in more Russian operatives as rebel groups advanced towards the capital.
France withdrew its remaining troops from the Central African Republic in December, as tensions mounted on social media.
In Africa, Wagner has been accused by human rights groups and other watchdogs of committing atrocities and looting mineral resources in exchange for supporting fragile regimes.
Bozize, a former general, defied UN sanctions due to his presumed involvement in the Central African Republic crisis and initially sought refuge in Uganda.
He returned to the country in 2020 with the intention of running for presidential elections but eventually assumed the role of rebel leader.
After government forces regained control of significant territories with the aid of Russian paramilitaries, Bozize traveled to Chad at the end of 2021.
However, Bozize’s presence in Chad while his CPC engaged in a guerrilla war in northern CAR strained the bilateral ties between the two countries, with the CAR accusing Chad of permitting the rebels to operate from its territory.
In March, he departed from Chad and relocated to Guinea-Bissau.