Voting was scheduled to take place Sunday in the Central African Republic for president and members of the legislature, but the vote has been postponed until December 30. Below are portions of several articles that explain some of the challenges that the country faces after widespread fighting and violence.
The Grace Brethren have ministered in the C.A.R. for more than 100 years. As a result, the largest number of Grace Brethren churches in the world are located there.
As Central Africans prepare to vote, major challenges still loom (Reuters, December 27, 2015)
As General Bala Keita, the military head of Central African Republic’s U.N. peacekeeping mission, fended off militia attacks on a polling station in a besieged Muslim enclave in the capital Bangui earlier this month, he was surprisingly optimistic.
It certainly wasn’t an auspicious start to a constitutional referendum meant to pave the way for pivotal general elections. But amid the machinegun fire and incoming rocket-propelled grenades, the battle-tested Senegalese officer saw hope.
“What’s extraordinary is that people are here. And we’re trying to provide security,” he shouted down a crackling phone line during the Dec. 13 referendum. “The population is saying ‘We need to vote.'”
Less than three weeks later, Central African Republic’s beleaguered people are preparing to head to the polls again on Wednesday for presidential and legislative elections to restore democratic rule under the newly approved constitution.
They hope this second round of voting will bring them a step closer to ending years of violence. But while doubts still loom over the authorities’ capacity to hold polls in a country carved up by warlords, a more important test will come after, when a new president seeks to rebuild and reunite a nation that now exists in little more than name.
Since mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian country in early 2013, deposing then-President Francois Bozize, the former French colony has slid ever deeper into chaos.
Abuses by Seleka — “Alliance” in the country’s most widely spoken language, Sango — fueled the rise of Christian militias who launched reprisals against Muslim civilians in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Thousands have died and nearly one in five of the 5 million Central Africans has fled the violence. The unrest also repeatedly delayed the polls.
After the referendum exposed shortcomings in the training of election workers and ballot papers arrived late, the latest delay saw the election postponed by three days.
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Central African Republic Elections: Five Key Challenges (Newsweek, December 25, 2015)
On December 13, the people of the Central African Republic (CAR) went to the polls to vote in a referendum on a new constitution. Like many others in the past three years of the war-torn country’s history, the day was marred by violence. At least five people were killed and 34 wounded during clashes in the capital, Bangui, according to Reuters. Authorities were forced to extend the vote for a second day. Voters overwhelmingly backed changes to the constitution, including the imposition of a two-term limit for future presidents, but the violence did not bode well for the overdue presidential and legislative elections set for December 27. It served as a clear reminder of the challenges that lie ahead for a new government.
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Central African Republic postpones key elections for three days (Reuters, December 24, 2015)
Crucial elections in the Central African Republic have been postponed from Sunday until Dec. 30 because preparations are running late, Prime Minister Mahamat Kamoun said on Thursday.
The polls are meant to restore democratic rule in the aftermath of bitter conflict. Mainly Muslim rebels seized power in the majority Christian nation in early 2013, provoking reprisals from Christian militias that triggered a cycle of inter-religious killings.
The postponement “is to allow for more successful organization and ensure these elections are more transparent, credible and democratic”, Kamoun told Reuters.
Ballots for the presidential and legislative elections, printed abroad, only arrived in the capital Bangui in the last few days and have yet to be distributed to polling stations across a nation with few roads.
Kamoun said an Oct. 13 constitutional referendum had also exposed shortcomings in the training of election workers.
“Most of the poll workers didn’t have the level required,” he said. “It’s absolutely necessary to organize training and find the people we need, especially as the stakes of these next polls are higher than in the referendum.”
Elections in the former French colony, where U.N. peacekeepers and French soldiers are struggling to maintain security, have already been repeatedly delayed.
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