- General François Bozizé, who took power in the Central African Republic in March 2003, has declared his candidacy to the country's presidential polls in January. While General Bozizé earlier had announced this intention, it breaks with post-coup agreements to return power to civilians.
The Central African leader made this official announcement on Saturday, confirming that he is to run for presidency when civilian rule is to be reinstated after the polls in the end of January. The military leader says that a large group of followers have urged him to stand candidate.
General Bozizé took power in a military coup in the troubled Central African Republic on 15 March 2003. He had then led a guerrilla war against the government of democratically elected President Ange-Félix Patassé, whom he earlier had served as army chief of staff.
President Patassé has been given refuge in Togo since he was overthrown. From here, he has allegedly tried to organise a revolt in the Central African Republic. There has been no success in the attempts to organise negotiations between Mr Patassé and General Bozizé, and the overthrown President will be barred from standing candidate in the January poll.
Neither General Bozizé was originally to stand candidate after the transition period. This had been the "gentleman agreement" between the coup general and Heads of State from the region. Despite African Union (AU) sanctions against coup regimes, General Bozizé was treated as the Central African President after agreeing to a transition towards democracy.
While stepping back on his agreement not to run for presidency, Mr Bozizé has implemented the transition to the satisfaction of his government's partners. A referendum over a new constitution was held earlier this month and democratic institutions have gradually been strengthened. Lately, the general has even been hailed for improving the human rights and press freedom situation in the country.
The military government however has not had more success in repairing the disastrous national economy, which to a large degree led to the fall of President Patassé. Foreign donors and investors still are not confident in the political stability of the Central African Republic, something authorities hope will change after holding successful elections.
So far, five candidates have declared their candidacy to the January polls. One of these is Josué Binoua, a member of the transitional parliament and key to the national dialogue process. The deadline for candidates to register with the Independent Electoral Commission is on 16 December.
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