CAR delays vote, rebels take hostages

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Central African Republic has delayed its presidential election by three weeks to May 16 after donor countries and the country’s electoral commission said a free and fair vote would not be possible on the original date.

The poll, which had been set for April 25, will be the first since President Francois Bozize won a five-year term in 2005. Bozize said over the weekend that he would accept a delay but the new date had been unclear.
“The president, following the suggestion of the president of the electoral commission orders that presidential and legislative elections will be held on Sunday, May 16, 2010,” a presidential decree said.

Central African Republic holds deposits of gold, uranium and diamonds, but has been bedevilled by internal rebellions that have discouraged large-scale investment.

After the new election date was announced, a United Nations-backed disarmament group said rebels had taken four members hostage at the weekend, lending weight to international calls for total disarmament before the elections are held.

Gaspard Berang, part of the mission for demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) said the hostages were being held by Democratic Forces for the Central African People (FDPC) rebels in their Moyenne Sido base close to the Chad border.

Jerome Ningambai, an FDPC commander, confirmed his group was holding the hostages.

The FDPC, led by Abdoulaye Miskine, signed a peace deal with Bozize in 2008, but rejected that deal the following year.

Bozize, who came to power in a 2003 coup, has held talks with rebels and unarmed challengers, but many insurgent groups continue to operate in the north, close to the border with Chad. Opposition parties have said they fear the election will be rigged.

Pic: CAR president – Francois Bozize

Source: www.af.reuters.com