UN launches "awareness campaign" for elections in Central African Republic

UN launches "awareness campaign" for elections in Central African Republic

The United Nations Peace-Building Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA) has launched a nationwide "awareness campaign" to prepare for elections in January that it is hoped will end years of instability and violence in the country.

As part of the operation organized 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, organizing 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 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 president, General Francois Bozize, overthrew the regime of Ange Felix Patassé in March 2003.

The 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.