Country Report Central African Republic October 1998 Main report

Political scene: Mr Patasse's foreign friends fuel a furore

President Patasse, whose personal connections with Libya's leader, Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, date back many years, arrived in Tripoli on August 18th. Ostensibly, the purpose of the visit was to congratulate the Libyan leader on his recovery from a hip operation. However, the trip also served a useful diplomatic purpose: Colonel Qadhafi remains a potentially influential and destabilising player in Chad, especially in the wake of recent French military cutbacks. It therefore makes sense for the CAR to maintain a degree of goodwill in Tripoli. Still, Mr Patasse has never demonstrated the surest of diplomatic touches. Earlier this year he signed a bilateral co-operation accord with Nigeria's late military ruler, General Sani Abacha, who undertook to provide training for the CAR armed forces. There is already a French military training mission in Bangui, but Mr Patasse's relations with Paris are prickly, at best, and he has been looking for opportunities to widen contacts and reduce French influence. Shortly after his return from Tripoli, Mr Patasse was attacked by the increasingly vocal and combative Mr Ngoupande over his security co- operation with the Abacha regime and the equally controversial government of President Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire).

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