The head of the Central African Republic’s highest court, who thwarted efforts to allow President Faustin-Archange Touadera to continue running for office, has defied a government order to retire.
Last month, the Constitutional Court quashed a commission for proposed reforms that would allow Touadera, 65, to stand for a third presidential ballot, in line with a trend in parts of Africa that opponents see as creeping autocracy . The Touadera government already elected twice earlier this month issued a decree ordering 28 higher education officials born between 1946 and 1955 to retire from December 31.
On that list was Constitutional Court President Daniele Darlan, a 70-year-old lawyer, jurist and former university professor appointed president in 2017. But in a letter to the government on Wednesday, she noted that constitutional judges exercise a mandate of seven years which cannot be terminated without the consent of the court.
“My mandate (…) is independent of the evolution of my teaching career,” she added. The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
ELECTIONS CALLED FOR 2025 The vast, sparsely populated nation of around 5 million people is one of the poorest in the world despite its potential wealth in diamonds, timber and gold. It has suffered violence since 2013, when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels toppled President François Bozizé, prompting reprisals from mainly Christian militias, with 1 million people since uprooted.
Touadera’s allies in May suggested reforms that would change a constitutional clause stipulating that presidents can only run twice, arguing that this was rare in neighboring countries. When a commission was set up to draft the amendments, protests erupted before the Constitutional Court decided to drop it, saying its decision could not be appealed.
Several other African presidents, including in Rwanda, the Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and Guinea, have pushed through constitutional and legal changes in recent years to allow themselves to stay in office. The next vote in the Central African Republic is scheduled for 2025.
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