Central African Republic’s main opposition parties and a former rebel group say they have pulled out of preparations for elections due this year, accusing President Francois Bozize of planning to rig the polls.
The complaints range from failing to implement a peace deal and to introduce an impartial election body. Some anti-Bozize rebels now in the peace process threatened to take up arms again and the opposition has called on the United Nations mission in the country to find an agreed solution to the crisis.
CAR is one of Africa’s poorest and most isolated countries and has suffered from decades of internal and regional instability. The Brussels-based International Crisis Group said this week that the nation’s fragile peace was at risk.
“Faced by the delicate situation of all these problems which are hanging over the election process, we resign from the process,” Henri Pouzere, coordinator of an opposition grouping known as the UFVN, told Reuters last week.
“For some time now, we have seen methodical and wide-ranging efforts by President Francois Bozize to hijack the election for himself and his clan,” Pouzere added.
The groups accuse Bozize of failing to implement decisions taken during talks in December 2008 between CAR’s various opposition and rebel groups. The talks led to concrete steps to disarm rebels and hold elections.
The election commission has also been criticised for being crammed full of Bozize appointees.
“A range of fraud is being committed by the Independent Election Commission to benefit those in power. It is unacceptable,” said Nicolas Tiangaye, another opposition leader.
The electoral commission and the government declined to comment.
Bozize came to power in a 2003 coup and won elections in 2005. Although the country has had a troubled history since independence from France, its crises are often overlooked by higher-profile conflicts in neighbouring Chad, Sudan and Congo.
Crisis Group said this week Bozize’s unwillingness to implement the country’s agreements was stalling reconciliation.
“If the government fails to re-engage with the opposition on upcoming elections and negotiate with remaining rebels, its fragile peace process will be at serious risk,” the group said in a report issued on Jan. 12.
A spokesperson for the APRD, a rebel group that operates in CAR’s north but is meant to be disarming, issued its own warning.
“Bozize is playing with fire. We will take up arms again if things are not corrected,” said spokesperson Djim Wei. “For now, we are pulling out of the process to get some clarity.”
Pic: President Francois Bozize of CAR