March, 26

Danièle Darlan: “Woman of Iron” who stood up for democracy

Danièle Darlan was awarded the International Woman of Courage award from the US government in recognition of her efforts to protect the constitution.

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Danièle Darlan: "Woman of Iron" who stood up for democracy
BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC – DECEMBER 26: President of the Constitutional Court Danielle Darlan speaks during a press conference after a meeting ahead of the presidential elections to be held on 27th Dec, in Bangui, Central African Republic on December 26, 2020. (Photo by Nacer Talel/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Danièle Darlan, nicknamed “Woman of Iron” the former head of the Constitutional Court in the Central African Republic, was recognized for her role in fighting democracy in CAR. Darlan has been a vocal critic of the government, and has been working to promote democracy in the country. She has been an important voice in the fight against corruption, and has been a leading advocate for reform in the country. Darlan is a respected legal scholar, and her work has been instrumental in the fight for democracy in CAR.

Danièle Darlan knew her post would be challenging when she assumed her role in 2017. The Central African Republic was emerging from presidential elections after establishing a new constitution. Much of the country was controlled by armed groups that committed human rights abuses with impunity. Darlan was determined to help the country move forward and improve the lives of its people. During her time in CAR, Darlan worked tirelessly to improve the country’s rule of law and promote reconciliation.

Danièle Darlan: "Woman of Iron" who stood up for democracy
Danièle Darlan, of the Central African Republic, receives the International Women of Courage Award from US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, with US first lady, Jill Biden, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, in Washington D.C, March 8, 2023.
© 2023 Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo

She was awarded the International Woman of Courage award from the US government in recognition of her efforts to protect the constitution. The award is given to women who have shown extraordinary courage and leadership in the face of difficult circumstances, and Darlan was given the nickname of “Woman of Iron” due to her dedication to her cause.

In 2020, Darlan certified election results after a vote in which armed group activity ensured low turnout, meaning another term for President Faustin-Archange Touadéra. However, the legitimacy of the election has been questioned by many, as it is believed that the low turnout was due to intimidation by armed groups. This has led to some unrest in the country, as some believe that Touadéra does not have a legitimate mandate to rule.

In 2019, a group of Russian diplomats visited the Central African Republic (CAR) in an attempt to persuade the country’s government to change its constitution. The proposed change would allow President Faustin-Archange Touadéra to stay in power for an indefinite amount of time.

However, Darlan warned the diplomats that such a move would only lead to further instability in the country. She pointed out that if presidents were allowed to effectively rule forever, it would create a situation in which they could become increasingly autocratic and corrupt.

“The Russian diplomats ultimately decided not to pursue the proposed change, and the CAR’s constitution remains unchanged”.

In 2015, Central Africans held a national dialogue to discuss the country’s future. They decided to enshrine term limits in the 2016 constitution, saying “no” to eternal presidents. This showed that the people of Central Africa were committed to democracy and wanted to see their country progress.

Danièle Darlan: "Woman of Iron" who stood up for democracy

In 2022, Darlan ruled that plans pushing for constitutional change were unconstitutional. Following her decision, groups of mostly young men showed up outside her office, calling for her removal. We spoke with some of these men last month who confirmed being paid by pro-ruling party youth associations to attend the protests, saying they didn’t really care about the court’s decision.

Seeing Darlan as a threat, the government moved to illegally remove her as the Court’s president, citing her age. This move was widely condemned, both domestically and internationally, as a blatant power grab. The government has since backed down, but Darlan remains a controversial figure.

On January 3, the constitutional court, now under a new president, ironically declared that the decision to forcibly retire Darlan from the court was unconstitutional. However, the court ruled there was nothing to be done because Darlan had already announced she did not intend to return to the court. This has set off a judicial crisis that continues to challenge the legitimacy of a court that should be regarded as the guardian of the country’s constitution.

The court’s decision has left many wondering whether the Forced Retirement of Darlan was indeed unconstitutional, and has called into question the legitimacy of the court itself. The court appears to be divided on the issue, with some members ruling that the retirement was indeed unconstitutional.

Danièle Darlan: "Woman of Iron" who stood up for democracy

Darlan’s award is well deserved. She has shown real courage in the face of adversity and continues to do so. But she also remains illegally removed from office and the court she used to lead has cleared the path toward changing the constitution. This means that her courageous fight is not over yet, and she still has a lot of work to do. But she has already made a tremendous impact and her award is a testament to that.

The current Central African Republic government is turning its back on the commitment made by previous administrations to not serve as eternal presidents. This is a critical mistake that could undermine the democracy that is only beginning to take root in the country. CAR needs more women of iron to ensure that democracy is given a fair chance to succeed. Only by having a strong commitment to democratic principles and practices will the country be able to achieve lasting peace and stability.

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