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Monday, 8 July, 2002, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
CAR accelerates anti-corruption drive
CAR National Assembly
The government is trying to clean up its accounts
The Central African Republic (CAR), one of the world's poorest countries, has lifted the finance minister's immunity from prosecution, opening the way for him to be charged with embezzlement.

Finance Minister Eric Sorongope-Zoumandji's immunity, which is usually extended to government ministers, was suspend late on Saturday night by President Ange-Felix Patasse.

President Ange-Felix Patasse
Patasse is seeking foreign donor aid
Fifteen finance department officials, including the Treasurer-Pay Master, have already been arrested on charges of stealing state funds.

Prime Minister Martin Ziguele launched a anti-corruption drive a year ago to clean up the former French colony's finances and the president of the national assembly recently described the Ministry of Finance as "a vast mafia organization".

Mr Sorongope-Zoumandji is expected to appear within weeks before a judicial commission investigating government corruption, which could then press for charges.

The commission, which meets in closed sessions, has not said how much money is involved.

Economic troubles

CAR has been experiencing a extreme liquidity problems which has meant some state employees have been unpaid for since April 2000.

The government has received no external budgetary assistance from international lenders since January 2001, who are pushing for economic stabilisation and the privatisation of most state enterprises.

Attempted coups in May and November last year caused further serious economic disruption.

Mr Patasse last month has asked donor countries for 4.5bn CFA francs ($6.8m) to help finance the municipal elections in November.

The last municipal elections were held in 1988 and all the candidates came from then president Andre Kolingba's Centrafrican Democratic Rally party.

Mr Patasse was re-elected in September last year in a poll denounced by all nine opposition candidates for fraud.

See also:

05 Jul 02 | Country profiles
15 Feb 02 | Africa
04 Feb 02 | Africa
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