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Free and fair elections crucial to Central African Republic's future, Security Council says

Free and fair elections crucial to Central African Republic's future, Security Council says

Argentine Amb. César Mayoral
Voicing support for the recent steps taken by the Central African Republic (CAR) in its gradual political transition after years of instability and violence, the Security Council said today it was essential that the country's general elections scheduled for next month are free, transparent and democratic.

After Gen. Lamine Cissé, the Secretary-General's Representative for the CAR, gave a briefing on the latest developments, the Council's President for January, Ambassador César Mayoral of Argentina, issued a press statement saying the 15 members were satisfied that the CAR was moving towards restoring the rule of law and constitutional legality.

Last month voters in the CAR approved a new draft constitution to take effect this year, and presidential and parliamentary elections are slated to be staged on 13 February.

The press statement stressed that "all necessary steps" must be taken to ensure the elections proceed smoothly or otherwise the CAR's institutions would be unable to function normally. It added that international donors must help fund the polls as well as meet the impoverished country's basic humanitarian needs.

Council members said they "took note of the difficulties" caused by the decision last week of the CAR's transitional constitutional court to declare some presidential candidates ineligible for the elections. But they also welcomed the move by Gen. Francois Bozizé, the Head of State, to accept three candidatures that had been excluded by the court.

Last month, in his regular report to the Council on the work of the UN Peace-building Office in the CAR (known by its French acronym BONUCA), Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the political and economic fortunes of the nation were gradually improving but human rights abuses continued and the political transition remained fragile.

BONUCA has been in operation since February 2000, when it replaced a UN peacekeeping mission. Since it began work there has been a series of rebellions, coups and attempted coups, culminating in the overthrowing of the regime of Ange Félix Patassé by Gen. Bozizé in March 2003.