8 candidates vie for interim presidency in CAR

2014-01-19 18:20
Michel Djotodia. (File AFP)

Michel Djotodia. (File AFP)

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Bangui - Eight candidates are in the running for the interim presidency in the strife-torn Central African Republic, the transitional parliament announced on Sunday.

Blaise Fleury Otto, head of a special electoral commission, said 24 dossiers had been whittled down to eight according to draconian selection criteria.

They include the mayor of the capital Bangui, Catherine Samba Panza, as well as two sons of former presidents, Sylvain Patasse and Desire Kolingba.

Ange-Felix Patasse was president from 1993 to 2003, preceded by Andre Kolingba, who came to power in 1985 in the impoverished country with a long history of coups, attempted coups and army mutinies.

Parliament will elect the interim leader on Monday to fill the void left when coup-maker Michel Djotodia stepped aside on 11 January.

Excluded from standing for president are any political officials who worked for Djotodia, party leaders, active soldiers, and anyone who has belonged to a militia or rebel group in the last 20 years.

The new interim leader will be tasked with restoring peace to the former French colony, kick-start a paralysed administration and enable hundreds of thousands of displaced people to return home.

It is an especially tall order given that general elections must be held in the first half of 2015.

Djotodia had come under fire for failing to rein in his mainly Muslim Seleka rebels after they seized power in a coup last March, unleashing sectarian clashes in the predominantly Christian country, with the United Nations warning that the bloodshed could turn into genocide.

Although the Seleka were disbanded after installing Djotodia as president, some turned rogue and carried out a string of atrocities including killings, rape and pillage, prompting Christians to form vigilante groups in response.

The capital Bangui was quiet overnight but African and French troops were out in force in the streets fearing fresh unrest ahead of the parliamentary vote.

Clashes raged in several remote parts of the country on Saturday, and Save the Children said a grenade attack Friday on a truck convoy carrying Muslims fleeing to the northwest had killed 23 people, including three children.

"It is a sign of the still fraught and highly dangerous situation in the Central African Republic that children and their families have been attacked and killed while trying to evacuate to safety," said Robert Lankenau from the charity.

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