The Central African president called for a referendum to amend the constitution that was adopted in 2016 and stipulated that the number of presidential terms be limited to two, which would allow him to run for a third presidential term. The opposition described the move as a “constitutional coup.”
Central African President Faustin Archange Touadera announced on Tuesday that he will organize a referendum on a new constitution that would allow him to run for a new term. His opponents mainly accuse him of seeking to extend his rule despite the restrictions imposed by the constitution in the country, which is among the world’s poorest and least stable.
“My people’s opinion is the most important factor that will determine the future of the Central African Republic,” the president said in a speech to the nation posted on Facebook. “I decided to put this project to a referendum,” setting the date for the referendum on July 30.
Touadera was elected in 2016 and returned to a second term in 2020, despite widespread accusations of irregularities in the elections, and the ongoing rebellion against his rule after a civil war that lasted for years.
In January, he sacked Chief Justice Daniel Darlan, in a move his opponents considered a “constitutional coup,” after she opposed presidential decrees aimed at reviewing the constitution, as the president is currently only entitled to hold office for two terms.
“There will be no third term, but the counter will return to zero, so anyone can seek to win a new term, including Touadera, if they want,” Touadera’s chief advisor, Fidel Guandjica, told AFP after the announcement.
In turn, the former prime minister, who is now the leader of the opposition, Nicholas Tiangay, indicated that “this new constitution will be drafted to give Touadera the presidency for life.”
“More than that, the Constitutional Court has been illegitimate since Darlan’s overthrow,” he added.
Touadera drew widespread criticism after relying on elements of the Russian “Wagner” group in conflicts between militias that control large areas and usually engage in disputes over access to resources and minerals.
The last French soldiers were forced to leave in December in light of the rise of Russian influence in the country, while Paris accused the Central African authorities of involvement in an anti-French disinformation campaign suspected of being fueled by Russia.
France, the former colonial power, sent up to 1,600 soldiers to help stabilize the country after a 2013 coup sparked a civil war along sectarian lines.