Djotodia, Michel Moana (Central African Republic)
Michel Djotodia declared himself president of the Central African Republic (CAR) on 24 March 2013 after ousting François Bozizé, who himself came to power in 2003 on the back of a coup before winning two subsequent elections.
Djotodia was born in 1949 in Vakaga, in the northeast of the CAR. He studied economics in the former Soviet Union, where he lived for 10 years. After returning to the CAR, he twice unsuccessfully attempted to win a seat in parliament in Vakaga Prefecture in the 1980s. He became a civil servant in the administration of Ange Félix-Patassé that began in 1993, working variously for the ministry of planning, the foreign ministry and as a diplomatic consul to Nyala in Sudan. When Félix-Patassé’s government was overthrown by François Bozizé in 2003, Djotodia helped establish the rebel Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR).
In Oct. 2006 the UFDR captured the town of Birao in northern CAR. Djotodia, in Benin at the time, was subsequently arrested and imprisoned at Bozizé’s request but was released in Feb. 2008 as part of a peace agreement between Bozizé and the rebels. Djotodia moved to South Sudan and reputedly cultivated links with Chadian and Sudanese fighters who would form the backbone of Séléka, a rebel coalition that included the UFDR. In Dec. 2012 Séléka came close to capturing the CAR capital, Bangui.
In Jan. 2013 a regionally-brokered peace treaty was signed, with Séléka forming a unity government alongside Bozizé to serve until elections in 2016. As part of the agreement Djotodia became first deputy minister for national defence. In March 2013 Séléka pulled out of the administration, accusing Bozizé of running a parallel administration and failing to release political prisoners. The group, boasting a force of 3,000, overran the capital a week later and Bozizé fled into exile. Djotodia declared himself president on 24 March 2013.
Djotodia established an interim government and pledged to hold elections in 2016, saying that he hoped ‘to be the last rebel chief president of Central Africa’. A National Transitional Council confirmed his presidency on 13 April 2013. Nicolas Tiangaye, prime minister in the power-sharing government under Bozizé, was asked to remain in his post while 34 ministries were shared between former opposition figures and members of Séléka. Djotodia himself headed the ministry of defence and in Aug. he was officially sworn in as president.
His government incurred regional and international criticism owing to the country’s descent into Christian–Muslim sectarian conflict. This prompted the deployment of additional African Union peacekeepers and further intervention by French military forces to arrest a spiralling humanitarian crisis and threat of civil war. He resigned from the presidency in Jan. 2014 after failing to stop widespread inter-religious violence and was subsequently exiled to Benin at the request of regional leaders in the Central African Republic.