CAR troops told to guard poll offices

2010-12-24 20:24

Bangui - The chairperson of Central African Republic's election commission ordered troops to barricade his headquarters to prevent staff sneaking out of work early, he told AFP on Friday.

"We have to meet the deadlines for the elections to succeed. But it appears that work is not progressing as it should because of the untimely exits (of election officials)," said Joseph Binguimale, the head of the commission.

"So on December 22, I asked the army to guard the premises to allow the commissioners to complete their work and meet deadlines," he said.

"It is not an occupation," he added.

The poor African state goes to the polls on January 23 after two postponements and political differences among parties to peace accords aimed at ending years of conflict and insurgency.

Poll independence

A commission vice president, who is a member of an opposition party, complained that the guards were threatening the independence of the polls.

"We have been locked in since December 22 until today in the headquarters like we are prisoners. We can't go home," said Gabriel-Jean-Edouard Koyambounou.

"This is a democratic process, so commissioners must work freely," he said.

Government spokesperson Fidele Ngouandjika said the deployment was not intended to threaten election staff.

"No soldiers are inside the commission's premises. They are outside and are allowing commissioners to work freely," he said.

"The army is not laying siege to the commission, this is simply out of concern for the commission to complete its work and to prove to the international community that we are serious," he said.