BANGUI (Reuters) - Central African Republic will hold presidential and parliamentary elections, seen as critical to drawing a line under a two-year inter-religious conflict, on Oct. 18, a spokesman for the interim government said on Thursday.
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 of the landlocked country.
A transitional authority currently in place is charged with organising elections and restoring democratic rule.
The polls have repeatedly been delayed, however, and a national peace forum last month said that a previous timetable that would have seen elections held in June or July was unrealistic.
Georges Ndamoyen, a spokesman for the transitional authority, said the new election calendar had been agreed upon following a meeting between government officials and donors on Thursday.
The polls will be preceded by an electoral census from June 27 to July 27 and a referendum on a new constitution on Oct. 4, he said. A second round of elections, if required, will be held on Nov. 22.
The polls will require a total budget of 20 billion CFA francs ($34.6 million) of which around half had already been collected from government resources and donor funding, Ndamoyen said.
Although the violence in Central African Republic has eased in recent months, sporadic killings still occur, fuelled by criminality though deep divisions between Muslims and Christians persist.
A Justice Ministry statement read on state radio on Thursday stated that a court in the capital Bangui would on June 29 begin trying around 50 cases of alleged crimes involving acts of violence and economic infractions.
The announcement follows interim President Catherine Samba Panza’s signing of a law earlier this month creating a Special Criminal Court to judge crimes committed during the last two years of turmoil.
$1 = 577.5800 CFA francs