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Central African Republic - Presidential Election - 27 December 2020

As of January 2020 the Presidential election was anticipated for 27 December 2020 (runoff 14 Febebruary 2021); and National Assembly voting in the Feb/Mar 2021 timeframe. The Central African Republic announced that the next presidential election will be held on Sunday, December 27, 2020. If necessary, a runoff vote will take place on Sunday, February 14, 2021. An increased security presence is likely at any election-related event. Local elections have not been held in decades, he said holding them would go a long way towards strengthening decentralization and local governance. Preparations have already begun, but progress is still threatened by a lack of resources, reducing the confidence of the political class.

The situation in the Central African Republic has seen a general decline in violence — “a tangible outcome of the Political Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation”, signed in Bangui in February 2019. The national defence and security forces are now patrolling the entire country and several important police-training sessions have been held. Popular distrust of the Agreement, in particular within the political opposition, continued as crucial preparations began for the presidential, legislative and local elections scheduled for 2020 and 2021, integral to an inclusive political process, indispensable to consolidate democracy and vital to ensure political stability.

Early September 2019, for at least the second time in the year, the Mouvement des libérateurs centrafricains pour la justice (MLCJ) and the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC) faced off in the town of Birao in the northern Central African Republic (CAR). Both groups had signed the 6 February peace agreement and the head of the MLCJ, Gilbert Toumou Deya, is now a cabinet member in charge of relations with armed groups, according to the agreement.

Six months after the peace deal was concluded between the government of the CAR and 14 armed groups, several serious challenges continued to affect the stability of the country and could cause the collapse of the peace agreement. The Government’s significant progress towards implementation, with MINUSCA’s support, includes monitoring mechanisms put in place at the prefecture level, the deployment of mixed security units and other national forces, the demobilization of armed groups, building judicial capacity and funding development projects. More than 350,000 refugees and internally displaced persons returned to their homes between January and September. More returns are planned.

The upcoming presidential and legislative elections, scheduled to take place in December 2020, could also lead to further instability, as opposition leaders and parties are already gearing up to face off with incumbent President Faustin-Archange Touadera. There are fears that a breakdown of the peace agreement, in this context, will reverse the progress made so far in stabilising the country.

President Faustin-Archange Touadéra launched the first special mixed security unit authorized under the Agreement in the north-west on 16 October, he reported, noting that additional units are planned in the north-east and south-west. They will allow continued engagement with armed groups on the peace accord, he said. Meanwhile, national demobilization efforts have stepped up, but the reluctance of the “3R” [Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation] armed group to participate in the process remained a major challenge.

On 19 July 2019, the National Assembly adopted the electoral code amended after the decision of the Constitutional Court of 5 June to the effect that some aspects of the code were unconstitutional. It was declared consistent with the Constitution on 14 August following the revocation of certain articles, including one requiring Government members to resign from their posts to be eligible to contest legislative seats. In addition, political parties are now responsible for ensuring that at least 35 percent of their candidates are women. President Touadéra promulgated the code on 20 August 2019.

Tensions continued between the Government and E Zingo Biani – Front Uni pour la Défense de la Nation, an opposition coalition comprising political and civil society and trade union actors created in May to protest government concessions to armed groups within the framework of the Agreement, among other political and governance concerns. The group denounced the inclusion of armed group members in the Government, characterizing it as “high treason”. Attempts by Government officials to engage the group in dialogue were unsuccessful. The Mouvement des Requins de Centrafrique, an amorphous group that emerged to counter E Zingo Biani, announced its dissolution in July 2019.

The former ruling Kwa Na Kwa party held its third convention from 12 to 18 August 2019, during which it announced its departure from the presidential majority and intention to align with opposition political parties. The party also announc ed that the former President, François Bozizé, would be its candidate in the upcoming presidential election, reiterating its demand that the Government allow Mr. Bozizé, who remains subject to a national arrest warrant and international sanctions, to retur n to the country.

On 30 July, the president of the opposition party, Union pour le Renouveau Centrafricain, Anicet Georges Dologuélé, publicly deplored corruption in the Government, in reaction to the findings of a parliamentary investigation into gold mining activities by foreign companies in Ouham-Pendé prefecture. The report highlighted legal anomalies in granting mining permits and negative environmental and health impacts of mining activities.

Underlining the African Union’s commitment to the Political Agreement — and its support in helping the parties adhere strictly to the electoral timetable — SMAIL CHERGUI, Commissioner for Peace and Security, African Union, called upon all stakeholders to push forward within those frameworks, while urging the Security Council to grant MINUSCA an appropriate mandate to support the timetable. He went on to welcome the convergence of positions on the part of the African Union, the United Nations and the European Union, stressing: “It is essential that the international community collectively continue to support the implementation of the [Political Agreement] which remains the point of reference for the return of stability in the country.” He added: “There is no Plan B.”

As at 01 October 2019, the procurement process for voter registration material, which usually takes three months, had not started, owing to lack of resources. Delays in voter registration would result in the entire electoral calendar slipping. The Government and partners continue to stress that strong support by MINUSCA is e ssential throughout the electoral process, given the limited capacity of national counterparts and the significant technical, logistical, operational and security challenges.

In mid-December 2019 former Central African Republic president Francois Bozizé returned to the country after more than six years in exile. Earlier this month, his party’s spokesman said Bozizé would stand for presidential elections in December 2020. Bozizé fled the Central African Republic in March 2013 as the Seleka, a mostly Muslim rebel coalition from the northeast, took control of the country amid widespread abuse. Bozize faces an international arrest warrant, initiated by the CAR in 2013, for crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide.

Leaders of the three main armed rebel groups occupying large areas of the Central African Republic announced a coalition 19 December 2020, ahead of elections and as UN peacekeepers deployed in response to fresh attacks. The move could further fuel tensions already on the rise in the troubled country ahead of a presidential and legislative vote on 27 December 2020, which the opposition fears will be marked by massive electoral fraud.

The armed groups decided “to combine all of our movements into a single entity, called the Coalition of Patriots for Change or CPC, under a unified command,” they wrote in a statement. The CPC invited "all other armed groups to join". They also urged their members to "scrupulously respect the integrity of the civilian population" and to allow vehicles belonging to the United Nations and to humanitarian groups to circulate freely.

The UN mission in the Central African Republic (CAR), MINUSCA, said that its blue helmet forces were on "maximum alert" to prevent armed groups from disrupting the elections.

The Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), a rebel coalition that began an offensive against the government a week earlier, said 25 December 2020 it was calling off a three-day ceasefire ahead of a tense general election on the weekend. The Coalition said in a statement it had "decided to break the 72-hour truce it had imposed on itself and resume its unrelenting march towards its final objective". In the statement, the CPC said that it made the decision "faced with "the irresponsible stubbornness of the government". The ceasefire's signatories had "invited the authorities to observe the ceasefire over the same period" and called on President Faustin Archange Touadera to suspend Sunday's presidential and legislative election. But government spokesman Ange-Maxime Kazagui dismissed the ceasefire, saying it was "a non-event" and that "we haven't seen these people stop what they're doing".

The frontrunner in the crowded field of 16 candidates for the presidency was the incumbent, Faustin Archange Touadera, who was elected in 2016 after a turbulent transition following the coup. But his government controls only about one-third of the country, with militia groups that emerged from the conflict in 2013 controlling the other two-thirds of the territory. Voting did not take place in 29 of the country's 71 sub-prefectures (sub-divisions of large administrative districts). Six other sub-prefectures managed only a partial vote.

A powerful opposition coalition in Central African Republic on 30 December 2020 called for the "cancellation, pure and simple" of weekend elections that were badly hampered by armed groups. More than a third of the troubled country's districts did not take part in Sunday's first round of voting for the presidency and National Assembly, according to official figures. In a statement, the Democratic Opposition Coalition (COD-2020), an alliance of political and other groups in the coup-prone country, said the elections "were not fair and inclusive and are in no way the expression of the people's will." Condemning an "electoral farce", it claimed widespread ballot stuffing and complained of a lack of observers in remote areas of the mineral-rich but poor country.

Provisional results were expected from January 4, but no final results were expected before January 18. A runoff will be held on February 14 if there is no outright winner in the first round. Touadera's election victory in 2015-16 was declared after a similarly long period marked by allegations of ballot disappearance and other irregularities.

The Central African Republic's Constitutional Court has confirmed President Faustin Archange Touadera's victory in last month's elections that were marked by poor turnout and threats from armed groups. Touadera "is proclaimed to be re-elected president in the first round of the December 27 2020 elections," Chief Judge Daniele Darlan said on 18 January 2021, validating results that gave him 53.16 percent of the vote. The court put the turnout at just 35.25 percent, a figure affected by the inability of many voters to cast their ballots. Anicet Georges Dologuele had 22 percent of the vote, repeating his second place finish in the 2016 election.

The Central African Republic (CAR) will hold a second round of voting for legislative elections in some constituencies, as well as a first round where a December 2020 ballot was disrupted amid a fresh wave of unrest in the violence-hit country. President Faustin Archange Touadera said in a decree on 13 Debruary 2021 the second round will take place on 14 March 2021. The regions where the first round was disrupted by rebel violence and other factors will also vote on the same date. Only 22 deputies out of 140 won their seats outright in the first round, of whom just four are from Touadera’s party.

Barely a third of the potential ballots were cast on the December 27 first round – and in the presidential election held on the same day – because of voter intimidation in areas controlled by rebel groups. Two-thirds of the impoverished country is in the hands of armed groups, and Touadera relies on help from UN peacekeeping forces and military support from Russia and Rwanda.

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Page last modified: 29-03-2021 15:55:21 ZULU