Pascal Bida Koyagbélé, Che Guevara of the Central African Republic?

Instigator of a "farmers' revolution" poised to take shape and for which he claims to be willing to pay a heavy price, Pascal Bida Koyagbélé is even more eager to enjoy its dividends. Portrait.

Sitting at the terrace of a café, surrounded by his main lieutenants, the Che of the Central African Republic as he is often called does not let up: "in the current situation in our country, everyone has to choose sides and there are only two: the Eternal Central African Republic and those who will be destroyed – by all means, if necessary – for trying to destroy it."  Pascal Bida Koyagbélé, who is not a man to let his behaviour be dictated, nor to accept opinions in contradiction to his views, knows he is expressing, in this way, the general feeling prevailing in the majority if his fellow countrymen, just over six months after the fall of François Bozizé. 

He is the one who knows his compatriots with their strengths and weaknesses. Theirs habits and contradictions. Their liking for division and their sublime outbursts. Given that no man is a prophet in his own country, he also knows that people are waiting for the chance to trip him up. To be taken seriously and to build a name beside his already renowned surname, he must appear as a pragmatic man who takes actions with actual impact on the population real life experience.  Moreover, economic, industrial, urban and social transformation of the Central African Republic is his topic, his cause and his great adventure.  

Hence his determination to undo the humiliation inflicted to Central Africans by a horde of mercenaries from foreign countries designated by the name Seleka.  This rebellion which entered Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, on 24 March, lost in only few weeks the favourable consideration it enjoyed at the beginning.  It appeared to be more an occupying force than a liberating one, plundering and destroying everywhere. Because they only attacked mainly Christian civil population, and destroyed religious buildings except mosques, the rebellion unwillingly substantiated that its leaders intend to impose a theocracy on the banks of Ubangui river. Seleka schemes provoke even more resentment in Bida Koyagbélé since his company, the fruit of hard work under the sun, was entirely plundered and the equipment taken to Chad, the neighbouring country. This generous man, mindful of his people and others, always prone to share his curiosities, discoveries and wonders, will therefore be keen to redress the injury.

Nevertheless, nothing about this forty-year-old man, born in France and raised in the fashionable districts of Paris, son of a Central African banker and a French woman originating from the French West Indies, suggested that he might one day be interested in the misery and unenviable faith of farmers in the Central African Republic who represent more than 60 percent of the population. He created the Association of Central African Farmers (APC), quite unusual for a typical city dweller who received an excellent training in prestigious schools in France and in the United States.  His objective : to restore the dignity to the farmers, until now looked down on by elites and manhandled by the risky policies of the regimes which followed at the head of the country. To succeed, he advocates no more no less than "a farmers' revolution" with an underlying clear ideological corpus. This is how within the farmers environment, Bida Koyagbélé's face has become, over the years, the Central African embodiment of a certain revolutionary romanticism.  His party Kité, which means challenge in Sango – the national language of the country – is its crucible. 

Since then, the Association as well as the party, regularly undergo missions to assist farmers. It was the case at the end of September, in the region of Bayanga (South-west) where Bida Koyagbélé gathered about sixty village headmen from various regions of the country. He was also seen in Boubou, a village situated at 25 km of Bossangoa on the Bouca road. During each trip, he meets members of militia, to give them cartridges for hunting and satellite telephones. Behind the scenes, he activates his networks: he campaigns with European green movements and approaches members of the ANC and of the powerful Union Cosatu in Johannesburg.

What is attracting to him? Firstly his simplicity. With his eternal Moa collar – remnant of his time with the Communists – both severe and elegant, he appears as a man close to the people. Yet, generally, most public figures in Africa fear the poor. But, Bida Koyagbélé is never as comfortable as with the poor. He jokes and is ironical on the most sensitive topics, with an affected accent, without loosing for a bit his legendary joviality. Then, his passion to improve farmers everyday life, as they make the country work and their efforts have until now been neglected by political authorities. This is, in itself, an impossible task.

Therefore, one should not hesitate to say, even if it means being politically incorrect: in the current context of his country where the Ubuesque regime established after 24 March is still struggling to abandon its division and hatred reflexes, the "farmers' revolution" advocated by Bida Koyagbélé, represent a credible alternative for the emancipation of the Central African Republic. 


Thierry Armand



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