Francois Bozize, the Central African Republic president who was toppled in a 2013 coup, on Monday filed papers to stand in the country’s presidential race next month, his party told AFP.
The vote is expected to go ahead on December 27 even though some two-thirds of the poor landlocked country remain under the control of armed groups since his ousting by a mainly Muslim militia, the Seleka.
They could threaten the security of the myriad candidates as well as voters in the predominantly Christian country.
The 2013 coup sparked brutal inter-ethnic violence between the Seleka and so-called “anti-Balaka” self-defence forces, mainly Christian and animist.
Bozize, accused of being affiliated with the anti-Balaka, boasts a large electoral base and could pose the biggest challenge to incumbent President Faustin Archange Touadera, elected in 2016 and seeking a second term.
Placed under UN sanctions for his presumed role in the 2013-14 crisis, Bozize slipped home after seven years in exile in Uganda, making his first public appearance in December 2019. He announced his intention to run in July.
By law, candidates must have spent at least one year in the country when they submit papers to stand for president, but Bozize’s entourage has not been forthcoming on the exact date of his return.
Among the 13 other presidential hopefuls are Touadera’s predecessor Catherine Samba-Panza, who was transitional president between 2014 and 2016, at the height of the civil war.
Other political heavyweights, former prime ministers Anicet Georges Dologuele and Martin Ziguele, are also in the running.
Toudera is currently the favourite.
Michel Djotodia, propelled to power by the Seleka in 2013 then forced to resign a few months later on the back of a French military operation, said Sunday that he would not stand in next month’s vote.
Bozize took power following a 2003 coup, before being overthrown himself 10 years later by Djotodia.