- A nationwide "awareness campaign" has been launched in the Central African Republic to prepare for the upcoming January elections. The campaign is sponsored by international donors, hoping the country may end its unconstitutional military rule and years of instability and violence. Free elections are not yet assured, however.
The UN today reports that an "awareness campaign" for elections in Central African Republic has now been launched in cooperation with the country's military government. The UN's Peace-Building Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA) heads the campaign.
As part of the operation organised in partnership with the Independent Mixed Electoral Commission and various government ministries, an "awareness caravan" toured several towns in the hinterland earlier this month, urging residents to register for the vote, organising debates and meeting with opinion makers, women's and youth groups as well as political parties and religious representatives.
It followed training workshops for election supervisors in Bangui, the Central African capital, last month under the auspices of BONUCA and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
BONUCA has been in the country since February 2000 when it took over from a UN peacekeeping mission, but instability has continued, including rebellions, coups and attempted coups, most recently when the current leader, General François Bozizé, overthrew democratically elected President Ange Felix Patassé in March 2003.
The UN Security Council last month called for steps to consolidate stability and pave the way for free elections, welcoming the establishment of the electoral commission as "an important step towards the restoration of constitutional legality." It also urged greater involvement of women in the transition process.
The UN and potential donor countries however remain sceptical of General Bozizé's willingness to play by democratic rules. Human rights violations in the Central African Republic remain frequent and the General has increased state attacks on the media. It is also seen as inappropriate that the coup-maker openly considers standing as candidate in the January poll.
Observers fair that General Bozizé will use the advantage of an increasingly controlled press to gain an upper hand in the elections. Should the coup-maker win in a poll that is not considered free and fair, international donors and investors are expected to continue to shy away from the troubled country. Continued instability would thus be assured.
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