Former Central African Republic President François Bozize was sentenced to life in prison with hard labor by the country's appeals court for "undermining the internal security of the state" and "assassinations," media reported.
The ex-leader was sentenced in absentia along with his eldest son, Jean-Francis Bozize, and 20 other co-defendants, including prominent rebel leaders, media reported. The co-defendants included former militia leaders Maxime Mokom Gawaka and Ali Darassa.
The vice president of Bozize's political party, Kwa NA Kwa (KNK), Bea Bertin, reportedly condemned the decision, accusing the country's government of trying to stifle opposition.
In March 2013, an alliance of rebel militias, the Seleka, overthrew then-President Bozize and forced him to flee the country. In May, while in exile, Bozize was accused of multiple crimes, including arrests, kidnappings, and arbitrary detentions, and an international arrest warrant was issued for him by CAR.
Following the conflict, Faustin-Archange Touadera was elected president in 2016. In 2019, the CAR government and armed groups signed a peace agreement. A year later, Touadera was re-elected to the top post.
Despite the peace agreement, rebel armed groups persist creating instability in the nation, launching attacks on the government forces, who are receiving support from Russian military instructors.
Since 2017, the Russian presence in the Central African Republic has been steadily growing, particularly after a meeting between Touadera and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. This was followed by another meeting a year later with President Vladimir Putin himself.
In February, Russian Ambassador to the CAR Alexander Bikantov told Sputnik that the CAR Armed Forces had defeated most of the illegal armed groups in the country with the assistance of Russian military instructors, who trained the country's military, police and gendarmerie, as well as held consultations in the fight against illegal armed groups.
Relations between the two countries were further strengthened during the second Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum, which took place on July 27-28 this year.