30 to slug it out in Central African Republic’s presidential poll

Head, Central African Republic Interim Government, Catherine Panza

Head, Central African Republic Interim Government, Catherine Panza

THE Central African Republic goes to the poll tomorrow to elect a new president. No fewer than 30 candidates are vying in the election, including the son of onetime self-proclaimed emperor, Jean-Bedel Bokassa.

However Bokassa and two other sons of former leaders are not among the front-runners in Wednesday’s parliamentary and presidential polls, aimed at ending more than two years of sectarian violence that erupted after a mainly Muslim rebellion overthrew longtime Christian leader Francois Bozize in 2013.

Bozize and Michel Djotodia, who toppled him, had been barred from the election. in the mineral-rich but poverty-stricken country, wracked by violence, coups and dictatorships since it gained independence from France in 1960.

Among the contestants, Georges Dologuele, 58, widely known as Mr. Clean, is most favour to do very well in the election. He worked at the Bank of Central African States serving six central African countries that formed a monetary bloc before being named prime minister, a job he held from 1998 to 2001.

Dologuele’s term was marked by attempts to clean up murky public finances and his electoral campaign consequently boasts his peaceful past and record as premier.

“At age 58, I have never held a weapon,” he said recently. “I am still happy to recall that between 1996 until now, the only time there were no military or political crises in the country was during my time in office”

Dologuele headed the Development Bank of Central African States from 2001 until 2010 and then set up the Central African Union for Renewal party. The first-time presidential runner has the backing of the party of ousted President Bozize who had been barred from contesting.

“Iron man” Ziguele, 58, was also a former prime minister who lived and worked in nearby Togo for decades before taking up a top job at the taxation department in his country.

Fluent in French, Spanish and English, Ziguele was named premier in 2001 and started cleaning up the corrupt customs service. He trained his guns on then chief of staff Francois Bozize for corruption. Bozize later took power in a coup and Ziguele remained a fierce opponent during Bozize’s time in power. Ziguele is running as a presidential candidate for a third time

Another top flying candidate is Abdoul Karim Meckassoua, a former minister under Bozize, the 62-year-old is considered to be one of the ousted ruler’s close allies.

Meckassoua is admired for being a competent and efficient administrator and is known for his diplomatic skills. He enjoys great support among Muslims and was instrumental in effecting a rapprochement between former President Felix-Ange Patasse and Bozize, the man who toppled him and took power.

The former lawmaker is contesting the election as an independent candidate from a constituency in the capital Bangui which includes the flashpoint Muslim-majority PK-5 district.

Jean-Serge Bokassa, a son of self-proclaimed emperor Bokassa, the 43-year-old was enrolled in a Swiss boarding school when his father was toppled in 1979. A first-time candidate, Bokassa has said he believed he was destined to have a political career.

Forty-six years old Eugene Sylvain Ngakoutou Patasse is the son of ousted President Ange-Felix Patasse, who ruled from 1993 to 2003, Patasse worked in the diamond industry. He had no political experience and is running as an independent.

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