(AFP) – Aug 11, 2010
BANGUI — Opposition parties and former rebel groups in the Central African Republic formally approved on Wednesday the president's choice of January 23 for much delayed polls designed to end years of unrest.
All the parties signed an agreement in the early hours after a meeting in the capital Bangui, settling on President Francois Bozize's choice of January 23 next year, with a second round on March 20.
The parties also agreed to abide by a code of conduct for parties taking part in the election.
The leader of the main opposition coalition, Henri Pouzere, said the agreement meant there could be no going back to the instability which has wracked the country for more than a decade, crippling the economy.
"The agreement we have just signed will allow us to go to elections in good conditions," said Pouzere, head of the Union of Active Forces of the Nation (UFVN).
"Now that the accord has been signed, we think we can quickly have financing for these elections promised by the international community," government spokesman Fidele Ngouandjika said.
The poll can only be held with financial aid from the United Nations, the European Union, France and the United States.
Bozize, who came to power in a 2003 coup and was then elected in 2005 for five year term, will seek re-election in next year's polls.
His mandate was extended after the Independent Electoral Commission twice postponed elections due for this year, citing instability and insecurity.
Bozize has previously rejected a proposal to hold the elections on October 24.
Former defence minister turned rebel Jean-Jacques Demafouth, who is now the deputy head of a national disarmament programme, said an important part of the agreement was the Code of Conduct, "which will settle any differences or misunderstandings during and after the electoral period".
"We need regulations for good conduct after everything that this country has suffered, and the solution really resides in the Code," he said.
Since 2008, politicians and armed movements in the Central African Republic have been engaged in a process of peace-making and reconciliation, after years of instability and insecurity.
The main rebel groups have signed up to the disarmament process, but unrest periodically erupts in the volatile north of the country.
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