Former president of Central African Republic dies

AP News
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Posted: Apr 06, 2011 12:48 AM
Former president of Central African Republic dies

Ange-Felix Patasse, who led the desperately poor nation of Central African Republic for a decade before being ousted in a 2003 coup, has died at a hospital in neighboring Cameroon, officials said. He was 74.

Patasse returned from exile in late 2009 and finished second in January's presidential election. He lost to current president Francois Bozize, who had overthrown Patasse as head of an insurgent army that seized the capital in a hail of mortar-fire.

Patasse's spokesman Guy-Simplice Kodegue said Tuesday that the cause of the former president's death was unknown, while hospital officials said he died of complications from diabetes.

Patasse had been blocked from leaving the country for medical treatment on two occasions and had only been allowed to depart on Saturday, Kodegue said.

Patasse served in several positions as minister and then prime minister under former dictator Jean-Bedel Bokassa, before becoming president in 1993 and winning re-election in 1999.

Opponents though accused Patasse of rampant corruption and he survived repeated attempted coups as well as military mutinies over unpaid salaries and labor disputes.

Then in 2003, he was toppled in a coup while outside the country and went into exile in Togo. Thousands of citizens could be seen ransacking Patasse's lavish private residence, shouting "Patasse out!" as the invading fighters looked on.

Patasse was born in Paoua in the Central African Republic on Jan. 25, 1937, and was the country's last surviving former president.

Central African Republic has suffered five coups and a myriad of army mutinies since independence from France 50 years ago.

Despite the nation's wealth of gold, diamonds, timber and uranium, Bozize's corruption-addled government remains perpetually cash-strapped. Its authority is mostly limited to the capital, while armed bandits and insurgents roam the anarchic countryside.