Only five out of 15 candidates are qualified to run for presidential elections in the Central African Republic (CAR), according to an announcement on Thursday by a transitional constitutional court in the capital, Bangui.
One of the five candidates that the court deemed eligible is President Francois Bozize, who seized power on 15 March 2003 from President Ange-Felix Patasse, after leading a six-month-long rebellion. The court said Patasse was ineligible to run for presidency.
The court's pronouncement follows on the heels of a "mixed" report by the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the UN Security Council on the country's political and human rights situation.
In the last five months, the UN peace-building mission in the CAR, known as BONUCA, registered numerous human rights infringements, mostly by security forces. These include, "the freedom of movement and freedom of the press, inhumane, humiliating and degrading treatment, violations of the right to life, summary executions, harassment, night-time searches, abusive arrests and threats of all kinds", according to Annan's report.
The political upheavals of 2003 resulted in massive population movement and almost 30,000 of the Central African Republic’s refugees remain in neighbouring Chad. The report found that the situation "is gradually improving in spite of well known shortcomings in the areas of governance and human rights".
The UN and bilateral donors are supporting the electoral process. Presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for 13 February 2005, after which, Bozize's transitional government is to be dissolved.
However, the court disqualified all candidates from the former ruling party, Movement de Liberation du People Centrafricain. Besides Patasse, candidates who cannot run include two former prime ministers, Martin Ziguele and Jean-Paul Ngoupande, and the former defence minister, Jean-Jacques Demafouth.
Demafouth and Ngoupande are in exile in France. A national court on charges of corruption has also indicted Patasse and Demafouth.
The four candidates who are eligible to run along with Bozize are his current vice-president Abel Goumba, a former president, Andre Kolingba, a lawyer, Henri Pouzere, and a former minister, Auguste Boukanga.
The court gave various reasons for invalidating the other candidates. Some, it said, had not provided a sufficient deposit (the equivalent of US $10,000). Others do not own a house in the town they live. Still, others provided copies of their birth certificates, which differed to the original.