Background: The former French colony of Ubangi-Shari became the Central African Republic upon independence in 1960. After three tumultuous decades of misrule - mostly by military governments - civilian rule was established in 1993 and lasted for one decade. President Ange-Felix PATASSE's civilian government was plagued by unrest, and in March 2003 he was deposed in a military coup led by General Francois BOZIZE, who has since established a transitional government. Though the government has the tacit support of civil society groups and the main parties, a wide field of affiliated and independent candidates will contest the municipal, legislative, and presidential elections scheduled for February 2005. The government still does not fully control the countryside, where pockets of lawlessness persist.