CAR ‘president’ vows to respect council vote

Self-appointed leader says he will step down if not selected as interim president of Central African Republic.

Michel Djotodia, Central African Republic’s self-appointed president, has said he will step down if not selected by a council created to a choose an interim president, Al Jazeera has learned.

“Djotodia said he would accept the decision of the council even it meant stepping down from his position,” our correspondent Nazanine Moshiri reported from Bangui on Sunday.  

“He said he wants to legitimise the interim government’s standing in the international community.”

It was not immediately clear how quickly the participants would choose a transitional leader, though the establishment of a selection process appeared aimed at solidifying Djotodia’s credentials as president after he took over the country in a coup on March 24.

Djotodia led the overthrow of President Francois Bozize in a coup that was condemned by United States, and came at the cost of sanctions. 

Election timeline

Djotodia’s comments came a day after he had issued a presidential order setting up a council to lead a transitional government until elections can be held within 18 months.

“Democracy is not just about going to the ballot box.

– Christophe Gazambetty, communications minister

But Christophe Gazambetty, communications minister of the CAR, said new elections could take up to two years to arrange.

“We have security issues to sort out, plus people need hospitals, schools and water. That’s a basic minimum.

“Democracy is not just about going to the ballot box,” he told Al Jazeera. 

According to the UN, essential services like water and electricity have been interrupted, while only two hospitals remain functional in Bangui, creating a humanitarian crisis. 

But Djotodia told Al Jazeera that the UN figures were incorrect and misleading.

“Djotodia said there were elements creating insecurity, but his army were disarming them,” our correspondent said.

Meanwhile, the government reduced the hours of a curfew in place since the government’s overthrow, even as gunfire crackled across the city of 700,000 after dark each night.

A curfew remains in effect from midnight until 4am, after two weeks of restricting people to their homes by 9pm.

The CAR has been wracked by a series of coups and rebellions since its independence from France in 1960.

The country is rich in diamonds, gold and uranium through the chronic instability and lack of infrastructure has kept many foreign investors from working in the country. 

Looters attacked the capital in the aftermath of Djotodia’s ascension to power, targeting not only homes and businesses but also aid groups.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies