Central African Republic - Leadership



Patassé's task of rebuilding the economy and infrastructure in the CAR is a large one. In his own words, the country is in a state of ruin. The challenges he faces would be significant for any president, given the current economic and political conditions. The nation's schools have been essentially shut down for three years; the civil service has been on strike for months and unpaid for over a year; and France, the CAR's chief financial donor, has reduced the overall amount of its financial support for the government. Moreover, Patassé will have to work hard to increase the base of his support in the nation's legislature, the National Assembly, if he hopes to enact the necessary programs and reforms. His slim chances of finding a political solution improved somewhat when his party, MPLC, strengthened its position in the National Assembly in the 1998 parliamentary elections, increasing their number of seats from 34 to 47 of the 109 seats; however, the opposition parties are still the majority by one seat.

Patassé's main leadership challenge will be to reorganize and regain the support of the country's civil service, which remains the most politically active and economically important group in the country. In the 1980s, as much as 95% of the CAR's annual receipts went toward the payment of salaries for public employees. The United Nations (UN) estimates suggest that up to 50% of the capital's population is supported directly by salaries paid to the 70% of all civil servants who are posted in the capital. Attempts at reform have had some success, but shortage of financial resources and long term structural problems in the domestic economy will make the reform of the civil service particularly difficult. Citing progress in the area of reform, in mid-1999 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) extended an US $11 million loan to CAR to help the government catch up on nine months of back payment owed to about 20,000 government workers.

In addition to the need to reform the civil service, Patassé faces a major hurdle in the need to develop a trust and respect for the democratic process among both politicians and the general population. In a country long accustomed to arbitrary and authoritarian rule, engendering a spirit of compromise and national unity will be a major task.

Since his election, there have been several coup attempts. A May–June 2001 attempt had been attributed in part to the opposition leadership of former president Andre Kolingba. The coup attempt, with an estimated death toll in the hundreds, was quelled in part by military support from Libya.

The success of his reform depends on his ability to form alliances within the National Assembly, gain the support of the people who supported his opponents in the elections, and convince the international community, particularly France, to support the rebuilding of the country.

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