Central African Republic’s presidential and parliamentary elections next month may deepen the crisis in the diamond-producing country as armed militias occupy large areas and as much as a fifth of the population won’t be able to vote. The capital, Bangui, is facing the worst outbreak of violence since early 2014 after the murder of a Muslim taxi driver in September triggered revenge attacks in which about 100 people were killed, according to the government. The army has disintegrated, while armed groups have partitioned the nation of 5 million people and battle to control the gold and diamond trade. “The country is in pieces,” the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said in a report. “It’s a recipe for disaster,” Tatiana Carayannis, deputy director of the Conflict Prevention and Peace Forum, which advises the United Nations, said by phone from New York.
“You have about half a million refugees, you’ve got a sectarian conflict, you have armed groups, and a United Nations presence that is supposed to help run the election but seen by most sides as partial.”
Pope Francis plans to visit a refugee camp in Bangui on Nov. 29, the first-ever visit to the country by a pontiff. He’ll find a nation that’s been gripped by violence since mainly Muslim rebels overthrew President Francois Bozize in March 2013. The takeover was marked by the widespread killing of civilians, prompting Christians to set up a rival militia known as anti-balaka.
The election is scheduled for Dec. 27, four days before a transitional administration appointed last year is due to end. Two earlier deadlines to hold a vote this year were missed. The UN has more than 10,000 soldiers and police in the country, while former colonial ruler France deployed 1,200 troops last year to help end the bloodshed.