Polling stations have opened in Central African Republic’s much-delayed national elections, which residents and the international community hope will bring stability after years of sectarian violence. A transitional government led by Catherine Samba-Panza has steered the country towards the presidential and parliamentary elections. The National Election Authority proposed the most recent delay, from 27 December to 30 December, to deal with technical and organisational difficulties. “This time, everything will be fine throughout Central African Republic,” said Julius Rufin Ngoadebaba, spokesman for the National Electoral Authority. He denied allegations that illegal voter cards had been distributed.
Central African Republic has been rocked by unrest since March 2013, when a largely Muslim alliance of rebel groups known as the Seleka overthrew the president, François Bozizé. When the rebel leader left power in 2014, a swift, horrific backlash by the Christian anti-Balaka militia against Muslim civilians followed. Sectarian violence has continued ever since, displacing nearly 1 million people.
CAR citizens voted yes to a constitutional referendum on 13 December, a vote seen as a test for national elections.
“The constitutional referendum vote allowed the electoral and country’s authorities to unseal the difficulties that needed to urgently be addressed,” said the minister of territorial administration, Modibo Bachir Walidou. “Now we can say that elections on 30 December will take place knowing exactly what needs to be done, by whom and how.