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Court in Central African Republic upholds election results

January 18, 2021 GMT
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President Faustin-Archange Touadera speaks to the media after casting his vote at the Lycee Boganda polling station in the capital Bangui, Central African Republic, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. Touadera and his party said the vote will go ahead after government forces clashed with rebels in recent days and some opposition candidates pulled out of the race amid growing insecurity. (AP Photo)
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President Faustin-Archange Touadera speaks to the media after casting his vote at the Lycee Boganda polling station in the capital Bangui, Central African Republic, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. Touadera and his party said the vote will go ahead after government forces clashed with rebels in recent days and some opposition candidates pulled out of the race amid growing insecurity. (AP Photo)

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Central African Republic’s constitutional court on Monday upheld President Faustin Archange Touadera’s re-election, raising the specter of more violence days after rebels attempted to overtake the capital.

Touadera, meanwhile, told reporters that he was open to talks with his opponents as proposed by a rebel spokesman “but not at any price.”

“I have dialogued with the armed groups, but those who are the enemies of peace and democracy, justice will take care of them,” the re-elected president said Monday.

Political opposition parties had urged the court to order a re-run of the Dec. 27 voting, saying insecurity and alleged irregularities had marred the election. Voter participation was only 35%, according to official results.

However, the court on Monday validated Touadera’s victory with 53% of ballots cast. Anicet Georges Dologuele had 22% of the vote, repeating his second place finish in the 2016 election.

Tensions have escalated dramatically since the presidential polls, with rebels opposed to Touadera’s re-election trying to invade the capital last week. Security forces backed by U.N. peacekeepers ultimately repelled the attack, the first of its kind in nearly eight years.

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Former president Francois Bozize and his allies have been blamed for inciting the violence, which erupted after the constitutional court rejected his candidacy in December.

A judicial investigation has been opened into the role of Bozize, who was in exile until returning to the nation in December 2019, according to the Attorney General at the Bangui Court of Appeal.

Bozize, who took power in a coup in 2003 and ruled until 2013, faces an international arrest warrant for “crimes against humanity and incitement of genocide.” He also faces U.N. sanctions for his alleged role in supporting the militia groups that resisted Seleka rebels in 2013.

The mineral-rich Central African Republic has faced deadly inter-communal fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power from Bozize after long claiming marginalization. Resistance to Seleka rule eventually led to Muslims being targeted en masse, with some beaten to death, mosques destroyed and tens of thousands forced from the capital in 2014.

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Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal contributed.