Elections open in Central African Republic (CAR) to elect new president and new parliament despite concerns Exacerbation of violence Bangui as the government seeks to crack down on insurgents.
Armed groups opposed to President Faustin-Archange Touadera, who is seeking a second term, have stepped up attacks as the Constitutional Court rejected several candidates, including President Francois Bozize, last month.
Touadera is the favorite of 17 candidates.
His main challenge was in 2016, former Prime Minister Anicet Georges Dologuele, backed by Bozize.
If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a second election will be held.
The emergency has cost the country $ 4.7 million in diamonds and gold, raising fears of a return to CAR CAR’s recent worst violence.
Since independence from France in 1960, the country has experienced five coups and several uprisings.
Opposition candidates and the newly formed Coalition for Reform (CPC) have called for a postponement of the election, but the CAR government and the United Nations have rejected the call.
Last week, the CPC, which includes armed groups accused by Human Rights Watch (HRW) of committing war crimes, threatened to march on Bangui.
The government has denied that the coup was a “coup d’etat” led by Boziz.
The rebel alliance temporarily seized the CAR’s fourth-largest Bambari last week. But their progress came to a halt when Russia and Rwanda sent troops to offer to Touadera’s government. Sunday elections.
According to the United Nations, in recent weeks, more than 55,000 people have fled their homes in fear of violence. At least five civilians were killed, HRW said.
On Saturday, the United Nations, which has more than 12,800 peacekeepers in the country, said “unidentified militants”. Three peacekeepers maintained Fighting broke out in central Kemo province and southern Mbomou province in Burundi.
Alexander Cyril Ngozo, an election observer in Bangui, told Al Jazeera ahead of the election: “We are in a crisis. “But the government wants elections, no matter how much pressure there is from armed groups.”
“I am especially concerned for my fellow citizens in the countryside. They are not involved in politics. They are not interested in what is happening. They are facing this terrible situation again. ”
Yvonne Vola, an 90-year-old mother in her 90s, hopes for lasting peace. Strong to vote
“I have the right to vote. This is my country. We will vote to find lasting peace. I want to keep selling my things for peace, ”Vola, who sells street peanuts and cassava in Bangui, told Al Jazeera.
“I have to work hard with nine children. Without peace it will not work, but we will be hungry.
Decided to vote
Dennis Brown, head of CAR (UN) MINUSCA, said her agency was committed to empowering people to vote in presidential and legislative elections.
“Bangui is calm,” Brown told Al Jazeera on Saturday. CAR is all about instability “in many communities in the western part of the country.”
“Voter ID cards are still being distributed,” he said. “The number of registered voters in this country is increasing to collect their cards,” she said ahead of the election.
“The population is determined to vote tomorrow, and with the support of the international community we are determined to get the most votes in the United Kingdom.”
The CAR’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the presidential election on Saturday will go ahead as scheduled on Sunday.
“The court ruled that the petitioners had no good reason to postpone the election,” said Catherine Soi of Al Jazeera in Bangui.
“70% of the country is enough for the people to vote,” he said. We told UN officials. We told a government spokesman. Yes, They expect a small number of voters. But I do not think this vote will slow down the credibility of the process.
Reporting by Adrienne Surprenant in Bangui