Elisabeth Domitien

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Elisabeth Domitien
Prime Minister of the Central African Republic
In office
2 January 1975 – 7 April 1976
President Jean-Bédel Bokassa
Preceded by David Dacko
Succeeded by Ange-Félix Patassé
Personal details
Born 1925
Died 26 April 2005 (aged 79–80)
Political party Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa

Elisabeth Domitien (1925 – 26 April 2005) was the prime minister of the Central African Republic from 1975 to 1976. She was the first and to date only woman to hold the position.

Family Background[edit]

Elisabeth Domitien was born in Bangui. The family had a plantation, and her father was employed in the postal service while her mother was a farmer.

Early life and career[edit]

Elisabeth was the eldest child and the only daughter. She got only a rudimentary instruction in reading and writing in a Catholic school and learned cooking and sewing. She worked in the field and helped to sell products. She learned to deal with numbers and established herself as a farmer and business woman. She had a strong personality and was enterprising. The women gathered around her and she became an informal leader in the community. At the age of 20 she became involved in the liberation struggle.[1]

Political life[edit]

Elisabeth Domitien mobilized the population with her speeches in Sangho, helped unite different groups and created a sense of national identity. She became head of the women's group in the independence movement, the Movement for the Social Evolution of Black Africa (MESAN). She collaborated closely with Barthélémy Boganda, the founder of the movement, and became president of the party in 1953. The country became independent in 1960 and Domitien collaborated with the first president of the Central African Republic, David Dacko, and the commander-in-chief, Jean-Bédel Bokassa. She served as a political adviser both to the leaders and to ordinary people, trying to reconcile different interests and improve the living standards of the population. Dacko ruled in an authoritarian way and the country soon became a one-party state with MESAN as the sole legal party. In 1965 Bokassa seized power in a coup, abolished the constitution, dissolved parliament and appointed himself as the head of the party, state and government with legislative and executive power.[2]

In 1972 Bokassa declared himself president for life and made Elisabeth Domitien vice president of the party. In 1973 she led the first national congress of Central African farmers. She was clever and industrious, appealed to the population and served as a unifying force which Bokassa needed. In 1974 he declared himself as marshal. He had a cabinet in which the ministers changed constantly and on 2 January 1975 he formed a new government. Here Bokassa introduced the post of prime minister and Elisabeth Domitien was appointed to the position. It was the International Women's Year and Bokassa wanted to draw positive notice to himself internationally by appointing a woman in a leading position.[3] She was the first woman to serve as prime minister of an African nation.

Elisabeth Domitien worked to strengthen the income and position of women. She was criticized by some people in CAR for the support she gave Bokassa. In her view the population should follow their leader. At the same time, she demanded that the president should respect the people and safeguard their interests. She was not afraid to voice her opinion, even to the president, and got many people out of jail after they were arrested without trial. Her relationship with Bokassa soured when he wanted to proclaim himself emperor. When Domitien opposed the plan, she was promptly fired and her cabinet was dismissed (7 April 1976).[4]

With the overthrow of Bokassa in September 1979, Domitien was arrested and brought to trial on charges of covering up extortion committed by Bokassa during her tenure as prime minister. She served a brief prison term and was put on trial in 1980, after which she was prohibited from returning to politics. In 1981, the military gained control again and ruled for 12 years. In 1993, it was replaced by a civilian government and Ange-Félix Patassé was elected president. Then Domitien received compensation for the unjust treatment she had been exposed to. She remained a prominent figure, both as a former politician and as a businesswoman, and was buried with official honours when she died in 2005.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Elisabeth Domitien married twice, but lived all the time in Bangui. Her first husband was Jean Baka who was an accountant in a river company and commuted back and forth between Bangui and Brazzaville. They had a daughter, Beatrice in 1941 (or thereabouts), but were divorced. Later Mrs Domitien married Mr Ngouka-Langadiji who was mayor and ran a coffee plantation in the Mobaye region east of the capital. He had several wives and did not move when he married Elisabeth. She lived alone in Bangui and her husband came to visit.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Torild Skard (2014) "Elisabeth Domitien" in Women of power - half a century of female presidents and prime ministers worldwide, Bristol: Policy Press. ISBN 978-1-44731-5780
  2. ^ Torild Skard (2014) "Elisabeth Domitien
  3. ^ Titley, Brian (1997). Dark Age: The Political Odyssey of Emperor Bokassa. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 0-7735-1602-6 and Torild Skard (2014) "Elisabeth Domitien".
  4. ^ Torild Skard (2014) "Elisabeth Domitien"
  5. ^ Torild Skard (2014) "Elisabeth Domitien" and Women Prime Ministers
  6. ^ Torild Skard (2014) Elisabeth Domitien
Political offices
Preceded by
David Dacko
Prime Minister of the Central African Republic
1975–1976
Succeeded by
Ange-Félix Patassé