At vote counting centres across the Central African Republic Monday, election workers are opening up ballot boxes and reading out the names on ballot slips a day after the politically volatile nation held a relatively peaceful presidential runoff. Sunday’s presidential election pitched two candidates, both former prime ministers, who campaigned to restore stability to a country that descended into a brutal civil war three years ago, which killed thousands, displaced nearly a million and split the country along sectarian lines. Reporting from the capital Bangui, FRANCE 24’s Catherine Norris Trent noted that, “the vote passed smoothly in security terms. No violent incidents were reported in Bangui, nor in other parts of the country. There had been fears about restive areas, particularly in the north and the east. But the UN security forces here ramped up security, redeploying troops to the country’s hotspots.”
Around 2,000 UN peacekeepers were deployed in the capital and 8,000 more maintained security in the largely anarchic provinces. Armoured vehicles from a 900-soldier French military contingent also patrolled the streets of Bangui. The two candidates, Anicet-Georges Dologuele and Faustin-Archange Touadera, are both 58-year-old seasoned politicians who ran on platforms pledging to restore stability and revive the economy.
“The issues during the campaign were almost self-evident: security — which includes overcoming the religious divide — and the economy, which was never strong but has gone downhill despite the presence of raw materials in the country,” explained Robert Parsons, FRANCE 24’s international news editor.
One of the world’s most chronically unstable countries, Central African Republic descended into one of its worst crises in early 2013, when the longstanding leader, François Bozize was ousted by mainly Muslim Seleka fighters. The coup sparked a series of revenge attacks involving Muslim forces and Christian vigilante groups known as “anti-balaka” (anti-machete) militias.