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Last Updated:  Sunday, 16 March, 2003, 15:11 GMT
Profile of Francois Bozize
By Lucy Jones
BBC News Online

Francois Bozize
Bozize: Once a staunch ally of Patasse
The sacked army chief General Francois Bozize - whose supporters have taken control of the capital of the Central African Republic - is a long time player on the country's political scene.

An intellectual and reportedly deeply religious man, he is also no stranger to coups.

During the military dictatorship of Andre Kolingba from 1981 to 1993 he was an opposition figure, leading an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1983.

He suffered grotesque torture at the hands of officials and, like President Ange-Felix Patasse, spent many years in exile in Togo.

Indeed, it was during his time in exile that he is thought to have formed a strong relationship with the president.

Ambition

For many years, he was considered a staunch supporter of Mr Patasse and help him rebuff rebels during the mutinies which plagued the country in 1996 and 1997.

But the short, pot-bellied general has always had political ambition; he stood for president in the country's first democratic elections in 1993, but lost against Mr Patasse.

It was perhaps for this reason that he was suspected of being involved in a coup attempt in May 2001 which was put down with the help of Libyan troops.

Ange-Felix Patasse
Patasse: Stranded in Cameroon
The much-feared investigation commission into the rebellion ordered Mr Bozize to answer questions.

He refused and in November 2001 took over control of the north of Bangui before fleeing to Chad with about 300 supporters.

He stayed there for much of 2002; there were reports that his men launched several attacks on the CAR from Chad and were responsible for looting and banditry.

Then, in October 2002, his supporters launched an attack on the capital.

But they were driven back to the north of the country by the army supported by reinforcements from Libya and a Congolese rebel group - the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) which controls the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mr Patasse accused Chad of backing the rebels - a charge his Chadian counterpart, Idriss Deby, denies.

Observers always expected Mr Bozize to return.

Supporters

Many people have been anxiously awaiting his arrival, hoping he would be able to sort out the country's severe economic crisis.

Civil servants and the army have not been paid for months and negotiations for a long-anticipated World Bank loan recently stalled.

Mr Bozize is also widely-respected for being a simple man and could often be seen chugging around Bangui in a battered Citron car waving to people he knew.

Reports of people dancing on the streets suggest the "new president", as General Bozize's spokesman referred to him on national radio this Sunday, is welcome.

What happens politically remains to be seen.

Mr Bozize is from the north - like Mr Patasse - so splits his former ally's power base.

The support of the army will be crucial, although so far Mr Bozize's supporters have met very little resistance.


SEE ALSO:
CAR rebels control capital
16 Mar 03 |  Africa
CAR seeks rebel general
16 Mar 03 |  Africa


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