Hopes that a presidential election in the Central African Republic (CAR) could improve stability and security in a country plagued by armed groups have been undermined by the opposition’s dismissal of the ballot - won by the incumbent Francois Bozizé - as a “charade”.
“The holding of transparent and credible elections was considered by many a prerequisite for the country to achieve stability, but with the massive frauds committed during the elections, and results already contested before the final proclamation, a return to peace will be problematic,” Nicolas Thiangaye, spokesperson of the Collectif de Forces du Changement (CFC), an opposition coalition which also includes several former rebels, told IRIN.
“External partners who supported the electoral process, not only the UN, have not been attentive to the demands of the opposition in particular concerning electoral lists and maps of voters. They did not live up to the hope of the CAR,” he said.
“It will be very difficult to turn a page on political instability in the country without dialogue [with rebel groups] and the completion of the disarmament and reintegration process. This is necessary to ensure peace,” he added.
The Independent Electoral Commission said on 1 February that Bozizé, who first came to power in a 2003 military coup, won the twice-postponed election, held on 23 January, with 66 percent of the vote.
All of of Bozizé’s four rivals have dismissed the validity of the election, alleging widespread fraud. Ange-Félix Patassé, whom Bozizé ousted in the 2003 coup, and who came second with just over 20 percent of the vote, said he would make a formal complaint to the Constitutional Council.
In a statement issued 25 January by the CFC, former prime minister Martin Ziguélé, who stood for the Mouvement pour la Libération du Peuple Centrafricain; former defence minister Jean-Jacques Demafouth (Armée Populaire pour la Restauration de la République et de la Démocratie, former rebels who signed a ceasefire in 2008, but who have yet to disarm); and Emile Gros-Raymond Nakombo (Nouvelle Alliance pour le Progrès) called for the election to be cancelled because results had been “fraudulently manipulated and in no way reflect the vote of the people because of their untransparent and unfree character”.
The candidates said there had been irregularities in 52 of the country’s 105 electoral districts.
Speaking to IRIN, Nakombo alleged that some voters outside the capital, Bangui, had been prevented from casting their ballots and that there had been several cases of multiple voting.
The National Election Observer Group, which coordinates the work of 500 national monitors, cited several procedural irregularities and violations of the electoral code by some candidates and their supporters but did not offer a judgment about the overall credibility of the poll.
An observer mission deployed by the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, which groups French-speaking countries, also noted “all kinds of difficulties and dysfunctions,” according to its leader, Burundian former president Pierre Buyoya.
“The preparation of the voters’ register, the printing and delivery of voter cards were the major cause of technical problems encountered,” Buyoya told RFI radio.
“Irregularities and shortages were noted with regard to the rules and procedures in polling stations and the presence of officials in some polling stations,” he said.
Two days before the vote, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said through his spokesman that the CAR elections were “are an important element of the recommendations of the Inclusive Political Dialogue held [in 2008] between the Government, the political opposition and other [armed] movements in order to consolidate peace in the country… and lay the foundation for stability and development.”
|Central African Republic (CAR)|
“It is important that these elections are credible, transparent and inclusive and that the results are respected by all candidates and parties,” the statement added.
Need for dialogue, disarmament
In December 2010, the UN Security Council expressed “serious concern” about the security situation in CAR, where attacks by local and foreign armed groups, notably Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, “threaten the population as well as peace and stability of the Central African Republic and the sub-region”.
Bruno Gbiegba of the NGO Network for the Defence of Human Rights told IRIN:
“Negotiation and dialogue with [CAR] rebels is needed. If the voice of weapons is the only one that people want to be heard, we’ll not come out of the dark.”
“If the rebels participated in the organization of these elections, it was to encourage their return to normal life,” he added.
Most of CAR’s rebel groups, which emerged after elections in 2005, took part in the 2008 talks and pledged to disarm in return for roles in state institutions. Since then, some 6,000 fighters have gathered in centres in the northwest, but relatively few weapons have been collected. No disarmament activity has taken place in the northeast, where two new rebel groups have emerged in recent years.
The departure in late 2010 of the UN peacekeeping mission in CAR (and Chad), MINURCAT, has added to security concerns in a country where the national army is not only numerically unable to establish a significant presence outside Bangui, but is also feared by much of the population.