BANGUI (Reuters) - A forum aimed at helping resolve Central African Republic’s two-year-old conflict has called for transitional authorities to delay planned elections amid concerns the country will be unable to prepare for them on time.
The country descended into chaos in March 2013 when the predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power, sparking reprisals by “anti-balaka” Christian militia, who drove out tens of thousands of Muslims from the south in a de facto partition.
A transitional government is currently in place charged with organising elections and restoring democratic rule, but polls initially scheduled for February have already been pushed back to June or July.
A report from the national elections authority presented to a forum of armed groups, political parties, civil society and the religious communities meeting in the capital, Bangui, said that elections even during that period were now impossible.
Among recommendations adopted by the forum on Saturday was a call for a new elections timetable to be drawn up following consultations among the elections authority, the transitional government and regional and international mediators.
It consequently recommended an extension of the mandate of the transitional authorities.
Although the violence in Central African Republic has eased in recent months, sporadic killings occur, fuelled by criminality and deep divisions between Muslims and Christians persist.
The lingering tensions have already raised doubts among some analysts as to whether elections will be possible this year.
In its report, the elections commission complained of a lack of voting materials, the difficulties of organising pulls during the May-to-October rainy season as well as lingering pockets of insecurity. It added that by May, the government had secured just 26 percent of the budget needed to organise the vote.
French and European Union military forces, which intervened during the worst of the violence, are now pulling out and handing over to a 10,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission.
Reporting by Sebastien Lamba; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Peter Cooney