Central African Republic pleads for aid to hold elections

Brussels - The interim president of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba Panza, urged rich donor countries on Tuesday to deliver on aid promised to her war ravaged nation, including funds to pay for elections later this year.

"I reaffirm my determination to organise democratic and credible elections... which will whatever the case take place before the end of 2015," Samba Panza told reporters after a donor's conference at EU headquarters in Brussels.

The Central African Republic government is in an effort to organise elections and leave behind a brutal conflict sparked after a 2013 coup pitting mainly Muslim rebels against Christian vigilantes.

Earlier this month, a national reconciliation forum called for presidential and legislative elections to be delayed to give the transitional authorities more time to organise the polls.

But the recommendation drew protests in the capital city Bangui despite the backing of over 600 national stakeholders including armed groups, political and religious figures and members of civil society.

The "electoral process that will put a democratic power at the head of the country is a clear and absolute priority", said Samba Panza, despite calls in Bangui she step aside.

"Only logistic and budgetary constraints" are responsible for the delay, she added.

According to Central African authorities, Bangui still needs $17m to hold the elections, which are seen as a critical step to avoid an irreversible descent into a failed state.

"The interim government's efforts are beginning to bear fruit," said France's Development Minister Annick Girardin, also attending the conference.

But the country remains devastated, with 1.4 million people still depending on food aid and 460 000 refugees still too scared to return home from neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and other regional countries.

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