Deposed former Central African Republic President Francois Bozize announced on Saturday his candidacy for the December presidential vote despite being under United Nations sanctions and subject to an arrest warrant for alleged crimes against humanity.
He made the announcement in a speech to a large crowd of supporters at a congress of his party, Kwa na Kwa (Work, Nothing But Work), in the capital Bangui.
The 73-year-old former general and army chief was overthrown in a 2013 rebellion by a coalition of mainly Muslim rebels from the north, plunging the majority Christian nation into a violent civil war and an acute and continuing humanitarian crisis.
"The country needs a man of experience, peace and conviction," Bozize said in the speech that criticised the tenure of the current president, Faustin-Archange Touadera.
Bozize first took power after a 2003 coup and served 10 years as president before fleeing the country in 2013. The new administration sought his arrest for alleged crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide, but has not moved to arrest him since he returned from exile late last year.
It is not clear how the warrant or foreign sanctions will affect his candidacy.
In January, Bozize said he would ask the UN to lift the sanctions imposed in 2014 over his alleged support for Anti-balaka Christian armed groups.
Touadera governs today with the support of a large UN peacekeeping operation with more than 13,000 troops and police. Elected in 2016, he is expected to seek a second term in the election but has not yet confirmed he will run. The first round of the race is scheduled for December 27.
The government signed a peace deal in February 2019 with 14 armed groups, who typically claim to defend the interests of specific communities or religions.
Violence has since generally receded, but there are still bloody incidents, typically sparked by fighting over resources and most of the diamond-rich country remains beyond government control. The violence has forced more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes.