CAR reconciliation forum calls for poll delay

2015-05-12 09:08

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Bangui - A forum seeking to restore peace in the Central African Republic on Monday called for the country's upcoming presidential and legislative elections to be delayed to give the transitional authorities more time to organise the closely-watched polls.

The recommendation was made at the end of a week of talks at a reconciliation forum in the capital Bangui, attended by armed groups, political and religious figures and civil society members.

The forum also called for an "exceptional extension" of the mandate of the interim government so it could adequately prepare for the polls, seen by the international community as crucial to CAR's recovery from a spiral of violence triggered by a 2013 coup.

The presidential and legislative elections are currently slated for July and August but preparations are reportedly running behind schedule.

Peaceful and democratic

The reconciliation forum urged heads of state of the central African ECCAS grouping to "respond favourably" to their request for a postponement, given "the poor mobilisation of donors to finance the electoral process".

The forum's statement did not mention when the balloting should take place.

But the country's interim President Catherine Samba-Panza - whose mandate is scheduled to end in August - said at the closing ceremony that "the elections should be held at the latest by the end of the year".

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the forum's recommendations "reflect the aspirations of the people of CAR to put conflict behind them once and for all and to build a more peaceful and democratic country".

He said these should be implemented without delay.

Deadly sectarian violence

Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has been mediating in CAR's crisis, earlier told the reconciliation forum that the organisation of the elections was "a priority".

The UN said last month it still lacked half the $44m it needs to help CAR move forward with the elections.

The impoverished, landlocked country was plunged into unrest after the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel alliance seized power in March 2013, following a coup that ousted president Francois Bozize.

The episode triggered a wave of deadly sectarian violence between the country's Christian and Muslim populations.

The mainly Christian "anti-balaka" (anti-machete) fighters and the predominantly Muslim ex-Seleka rebel movement signed a ceasefire deal in April.

In what was hailed by the UN as another major step forward, rival militias agreed during the reconciliation forum to release thousands of child soldiers and end child recruitment.

Read more on:    un  |  ban ki-moon  |  central african republic  |  central africa

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