Ange-Félix Patassé (25 January 1937 – 5 April 2011) was a Central African politician who was president of the Central African Republic from 1993 until 2003, when he was deposed by the rebel leader François Bozizé in the 2003 coup d'état. Patassé was the first president in the CAR's history (since 1960) to be chosen in what was generally regarded as a fairly democratic election (1993) in that it was brought about by donor pressure on President André Kolingba and assisted by the United Nations Electoral Assistance Unit.

Ange-Félix Patassé
Patassé in c. 1960
5th President of the Central African Republic
In office
22 October 1993 – 15 March 2003
Prime MinisterEnoch Derant Lakoué
Jean-Luc Mandaba
Gabriel Koyambounou
Jean-Paul Ngoupandé
Michel Gbezera-Bria
Anicet-Georges Dologuélé
Martin Ziguélé
Preceded byAndré Kolingba
Succeeded byFrançois Bozizé
Prime Minister of the Central African Empire
In office
8 December 1976 – 14 July 1978
MonarchBokassa I
Preceded byElisabeth Domitien
Succeeded byHenri Maïdou
Personal details
Born(1937-01-25)25 January 1937
Paoua, Lim-Pendé, Ubangi-Shari (now Central African Republic)
Died5 April 2011(2011-04-05) (aged 74)
Douala, Cameroon
Political partyMovement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MPLC)
Spouse(s)Lucienne Lemotomo Patassé (separated)
Angèle Patassé (died 2007)

He was chosen a second time in a fair election (1999) as well. However, during his first term in office (1993–1999), three military mutinies in 1996–1997 led to increasing conflict between so-called "northerners" (like Patassé) and "southerners" (like his predecessor President André Kolingba). Expatriate mediators and peacekeeping troops were brought in to negotiate peace accords between Patassé and the mutineers and to maintain law and order. During his second term as president, Patassé increasingly lost the support of many of his long-time allies as well as the French, who had intervened to support him during his first term in office. Patassé was ousted in March 2003 and went into exile in Togo.

Background edit

Patassé was born in Paoua, the capital of the northwestern province of Ouham Pendé in the colony of Ubangi-Shari in French Equatorial Africa, and he belonged to the Sara-Kaba ethnic group which predominates in the region around Paoua. Patassé's father, Paul Ngakoutou, who had served in the Free French military forces during the Second World War and afterwards worked for the colonial administration in the Province of Ouham-Pendé, was a member of the Sara-kaba people and was raised in a small village to the northeast of Boguila. Patassé's mother, Véronique Goumba, belonged to the Kare ethnic group of northwestern Ubangi-Shari. As Patassé spent much of his youth in Paoua he was associated with the Ouham-Pendé province and many of his most loyal political supporters were ethnic Kaba. After attending school in Ubangi-Shari, Patassé studied in an agricultural institute in Puy-de-Dôme, France, where he received a Technical Baccalaureate which allowed him to enroll in the Superior Academy of Tropical Agriculture in Nogent-sur-Marne, and then in the National Agronomical Institute in Paris. Specializing in zootechnology, he received a diploma from the Center for the Artificial Insemination of Domestic Animals in Rambouillet, France. He finished his studies in Paris in 1959, a year before the independence of the Central African Republic.

Political career edit

1960s–1970s: Rise to power edit

Patassé joined the Central African civil service in 1959, shortly before independence. He became an agricultural engineer and agricultural inspector in the Ministry of Agriculture in July 1963, under President David Dacko. In December 1965, Dacko appointed him Director of Agriculture and Minister of Development. In 1966, Jean-Bédel Bokassa took power in a coup d'état. Patassé was the "cousin" of President Bokassa's principal wife, Catherine Denguiadé, and gained the confidence of the new president, serving in almost all the governments formed by Bokassa. After Bokassa's creation of the Council for the Central African Revolution (in imitation of the Libyan Revolutionary Command Council), Patassé was named a member of the Council of the Revolution with the rank of Prime Minister in charge of Posts and Communications, Tourism, Water, Forests, Hunting and Fishing, as well as Custodian of the Seats of State (4 September 1976 – 14 December 1976). During this period Patassé followed Bokassa in becoming a convert to Islam for a few months, and changed his name to Mustafa Patassé. After Bokassa became Emperor Bokassa I, Patassé was named Prime Minister and Head of the first Imperial Government. He remained in this position for 2 1/2 years, when a public announcement was made that Patassé had stepped down from office due to health problems.[1] Patassé then left for France, where he remained in exile until the overthrow of Bokassa in September 1979. Shortly before Bokassa's overthrow, Patassé announced his opposition to the Emperor and founded the Front de Libération du Peuple Centrafricain (FLPC; Front for the Liberation of the Central African People).

Emperor Bokassa was overthrown and President David Dacko restored to power by the French in 1979. Dacko ordered Patassé to be put under house arrest. Patassé attempted to escape to the Republic of Chad, but failed and was arrested again. He was later released due to alleged health problems.

Ministerial roles under Bokassa edit

  • Minister of Development (1 January 1966 – 5 April 1968)
  • Minister of Transport and Energy (5 April 1968 – 17 September 1969)
  • Minister of State for Development, Tourism, Transport and Energy (17 September 1969 – 4 February 1970)
  • Minister of State for Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Waters, Forests, Hunting, Tourism and Transport (4 February 1970 – 25 June 1970)
  • Minister of State for Development (25 June 1970 – 19 August 1970)
  • Minister of State for Transport and Commerce (19 August 1970 – 25 November 1970)
  • Minister of State for the Organization of Transport by Roads, Rivers and Air (25 November 1970 – 19 October 1971)
  • Minister of State for Civil Aviation (19 October 1971 – 13 May 1972)
  • Minister of State for delegated by the President of the Republic for Rural Development (13 May 1972 – 20 March 1973)
  • Minister of State for Public Health and Social Affairs (20 March 1973 – 16 October 1973)
  • Minister of State delegated by the President of the Republic for Missions (16 October 1973 – 1 February 1974)
  • Minister of State for Tourism, Waters, Forests, Hunting and Fishing (15 June 1974 – 4 April 1976)
  • Minister of State serving as Agricultural Councilor for the Head of State (10 April 1976 – 24 May 1976)
  • Minister of State for Tourism, Water, Forests, Hunting and Fishing (24 May 1976 – 4 September 1976)

1980s: Return to politics and further exile edit

Patassé returned to the CAR to present himself as a candidate for the presidential election of 15 March 1981, after which it was announced that Patassé gained 38% of the votes and thus came in second, after President Dacko. Patassé denounced the election results as rigged. Several months later, on 1 September 1981, General André Kolingba overthrew Dacko in a bloodless coup and took power, after which he forbade political activity in the country. Patassé felt obliged to leave the Central African Republic to live in exile once again, but on 27 February 1982, Patassé returned to the Central African Republic and participated in an unsuccessful coup d'état attempt against General Kolingba with the help of a few military officers such as General François Bozizé. Four days later, having failed to gain the support of the military forces, Patassé went in disguise to the French Embassy to seek refuge. After heated negotiations between President Kolingba and the French, Patassé was allowed to leave for exile in Togo. After remaining abroad for almost a decade, of which several years were spent in France, Patassé returned to the Central African Republic in 1992 to participate in presidential elections as head of the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC). The donor community, with the fall of the Soviet Union, saw no need to prop up the Kolingba regime and so had pressed for change helping to organize elections with some help from the UN Electoral Assistance Unit and with logistical support from the French army.

1990s: Return to power edit

After the Kolingba regime sabotaged a first set of elections in 1992, which Patassé would have probably won, a second set of elections was held and on the second round on 19 September 1993, he came in first with 37 percent of the vote—well ahead of his nearest competitors, Kolingba, David Dacko and Abel Goumba. He defeated Goumba in the runoff. Largely thanks to the foreign pressure notably from the USA and technical support from the UN, for the first time the elections were fair and democratic. Patassé thus became the first president in the nation's history to gain power by such means. When he took office on 22 October 1993; it marked the first (and to date, only) time in the country's history that a sitting government peacefully surrendered power to the opposition.

He had the support of most of his own sara-kaba people, the largest ethno-linguistic group in the Central African Republic, as well as the Souma people of his "hometown" of Paoua and the Kare people of his mother. Most of his supporters lived in the most populous northwestern savanna regions of the CAR, and thus came to be called "northerners", whereas all previous presidents were from either the forest or Ubangi river regions in the south, and so their supporters came to be called "southerners". As a populist, Patassé promoted himself as a candidate who represented a majority of the population against the privileges of southerners who held a disproportionate number of lucrative jobs in the public and parastatal sectors of the economy. As President, Patassé began to replace many "southerners" with "northerners" in these jobs which infuriated many Yakoma people in particular who had benefited from the patronage of former President Kolingba.[citation needed] During Patassé's first six-year term in office (22 October 1993 – 1999), the economy appeared to improve a little as the flow of donor money started up again following the elections and the apparent legitimacy they brought. There were three consecutive mutinies in 1996–1997, during which destruction of buildings and property had an adverse impact on the economy. The first mutiny began in May 1996. Patassé's government successfully regained control with the help of François Bozizé and the French, but his obvious dependency on the French, against whom he had regularly railed, reduced his standing further. His subsequent use of Libyan troops as a body guard did nothing to help his reputation, either locally or with the donor community and the USA even closed their embassy temporarily. The last and most serious mutiny continued until early 1997, when a semblance of order was restored after the signing of the Bangui Agreements, and with the help of troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Gabon, Mali, Senegal, and Togo. The Security Council of the United Nations approved a mission for peace, MINURCA, in 1998. MINURCA was made up of 1,350 African soldiers. These mutinies greatly increased the tension between "northerners" and "southerners" in the CAR and thus polarized society to a greater extent than before.[citation needed] In the presidential election of September 1999, Patassé won easily, defeating former presidents Kolingba and Dacko, winning in the first round with about 51.6% of the vote. Opposition leaders[who?] accused the elections of being rigged. During his second term, Patassé, whose rule had always been erratic and arbitrary,[citation needed] became increasingly unpopular. In 2000, he may have had his former prime-minister Jean-Luc Mandaba and his son poisoned on suspicion of planning a coup.[2][citation needed] There were failed coup attempts against him in 2001 and 2002, which he suspected Andre Kolingba and/or General François Bozizé were involved in, but when Patassé attempted to have Bozizé arrested, the general left the country for Chad with military forces which were loyal to him.

2003–2008: Ouster and criminal charges edit

Patassé left the country for a conference in Niger in 2003, and in his absence Bozizé seized Bangui on March 15. Although this takeover was internationally condemned, no attempt was made to depose the new leader. Patassé then went into exile in Togo.

Although nominated as the MLPC's presidential candidate in November 2004, on 30 December 2004 Patassé was barred from running in the 2005 presidential election due to what the Constitutional Court considered problems with his birth certificate and land title. He was one of seven candidates barred, while five, including Bozizé, were permitted to stand. After an agreement signed in Libreville, Gabon on 22 January 2005, all barred presidential candidates were permitted to stand in the March 13 election except for Patassé, on the grounds that he was the subject of judicial proceedings. The MLPC instead backed his last prime minister, Martin Ziguélé, for president.

Patassé was accused of stealing 70 billion Central African francs from the country's treasury. He denied this and in an interview with Agence France-Presse on 21 December 2004, he stated that he had no idea where he could have found so much money to steal in a country with a budget of only 90–100 billion francs. He was also accused of war crimes in connection with the violence that followed a failed 2002 coup attempt, in which rebels from the northern Democratic Republic of the Congo came to Patassé's assistance, but were accused of committing many atrocities in the process. Patassé, the Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba and three others were charged in September 2004.[3] However, the government of the Central African Republic was unable to arrest them, so the courts referred the matter in April 2006 to the International Criminal Court.

2008–2011: Return to Bangui, last presidential campaign, and death edit

On 7 December 2008, Patassé returned to the Central African Republic for the first time since his ouster in order to participate in a national dialogue, with the government's permission. Arriving at the airport in Bangui, he kissed the ground and said that he had "not come to judge but to find grounds for entente and to tackle the problems of the Central African Republic".[4] At the dialogue, Patassé said that the political situation should be resolved not through removing Bozizé from office, but through "democratic, transparent and fair elections in 2010".[5]

Patassé said in June 2009 that he would be leaving his Togolese exile and returning to Bangui in preparation for the 2010 presidential election, in which he planned to stand as a candidate. Although Ziguélé had taken over the MPLC, Patassé declared that he would convene a party congress upon his return.[6] He eventually returned to Bangui on 30 October 2009, amidst a "discreet atmosphere".[7] He subsequently met with Bozizé on November 9. Following the meeting, Patassé thanked Bozizé in a statement and said that they had discussed the Central African Republic's problems "in a brotherly atmosphere". He also reiterated his intention to stand as a presidential candidate in 2010.[8]

Patassé placed second in the January 2011 presidential election, far behind Bozizé, although ill-health had impeded his campaigning. He suffered from diabetes and was prevented from leaving the country for treatment in Equatorial Guinea in March 2011. He was eventually allowed to travel, but was hospitalised at Douala in Cameroon en route to Malabo, and died there on 5 April 2011.[9] There were calls for a state funeral.[10]

Personal life edit

Patassé's first wife was Lucienne Patassé, with whom he had seven children - four girls and three boys.[11][12] Patassé separated from and divorced Lucienne during his first exile in Togo from 1982 to 1992,.[13] Lucienne Patassé, who was elected to the National Assembly in 1993, died on 29 July 2000, at the age of 56.[11][12]

He then married a Togolese woman, Angèle Patassé, who became first lady during his presidency.[13] The couple had three children. Ange-Félix and Angèle Patassé lived in exile in at a villa in Lomé, Togo, beginning in 2003. Angèle Patassé died in Lomé on 3 December 2007 at the age of 52.[13]

Further reading edit

  • Jean-Marc Aractingi, La Politique à mes trousses (Politics at my heels), Editions l'Harmattan, Paris, 2006, Central Africa Chapter (ISBN 978-2-296-00469-6).
  • O’Toole, Thomas. "The Central African Republic: Political Reform and Social Malaise." In John F. Clark & David E. Gardinier, eds., Political Reform in Francophone Africa. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1997.
  • Mehler, Andreas. "The Shaky Foundations, Adverse Circumstances, and Limited Achievements of Democratic Transition in the Central African Republic." In The Fate of Africa's Democratic Experiments: Elites and Institutions, ed. by Leonardo A. Villalón and Peter VonDoepp. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005, pp. 126–152.
  • Bradshaw, Richard. "Ending a Central African Mutiny." Christian Science Monitor, January 11, 1998.
  • Kalck, Pierre. Historical Dictionary of the Central African Republic. 3rd ed. Trans. Thomas O'Toole. Metuchen, N.J. & London: The Scarecrow Press, 2004.
  • Saulnier, Pierre. Le Centrafrique: Entre mythe et réalité. Paris, L’Harmattan, 1998.
  • Titley, Brian. Dark Age: The Political Odyssey of Emperor Bokassa. London & Montreal: McGill–Queen's University Press, 1997.

References edit

  1. ^ "Central African Empire Replaces Prime Minister, Broadcast Says". The New York Times. 16 July 1978. Retrieved 5 February 2022.
  2. ^ "Situation brusquement tendue ce matin à Bangui". Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  3. ^ "Hague referral for African pair". BBC. 14 April 2006.
  4. ^ "Toppled Central African leader Patasse returns from exile", AFP, December 7, 2008.
  5. ^ "Central African Republic president dissolves government", AFP, January 18, 2009.
  6. ^ "Patassé : « L’exil, c’est fini ! »"[permanent dead link],, June 16, 2009 (in French).
  7. ^ "RCA : Patassé rentre au bercail" Archived July 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Radio France Internationale (, October 31, 2009 (in French).
  8. ^ "Back from exile, Central African ex-leader eyes election", AFP, November 9, 2009.
  9. ^ "C. African Republic ex-president Patasse dies: spokesman", AFP, April 5, 2011.
  10. ^ "Central Africans mourn ex-president Patasse", AFP, April 6, 2011.
  11. ^ a b Bissengue, Victor (30 July 2000). "Madame Lucienne PATASSE est décédée le samedi 29 juillet 2000 2H à Bangui". Sangonet. Archived from the original on 25 April 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  12. ^ a b "Hommages au député Lucienne Patassé, la classe politique et le Président Patassé: Obsèques nationales de Lucienne Patassé". Agence France-Presse. Sangonet. 1 August 2000. Archived from the original on 25 April 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2023.
  13. ^ a b c "Angèle Patassé est décédée". Republic of Togo. 5 December 2007. Archived from the original on 4 June 2023. Retrieved 28 August 2023.