People stand in line to cast their ballots, during elections in Bangui, Central African Republic, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. Thousands in Central African Republic's capital voted Wednesday in national elections with hope that a new president will lead to greater stability after years of violence. (AP Photo/Herve Serefio Diaspora)
The much delayed presidential elections are going ahead today in the Central African Republic. Polling stations opened this morning with the hope that the awaited elections will bring some stability to the country by returning democratic rule.
CAR has gone through many years of violence after President Francois Bozize was ousted in March 2013 by a mainly Islamic rebel alliance, the Seleka. The group then appointed Michel Djotodia, a Muslim, as the head of state in a predominantly Christian nation. After Djotodia resigned in January 2014 due to pressure from regional leaders, Alexandre-Ferdinand Nguendet served as acting president and was fianlly replaced by Catherine Samba-Panza after she was elected interim president.
30 candidates are running for president today and all 30 have promised to bring an end to the violence in the country and reunite the nation that has been going through extreme sectarian fighting. These elections are seen as the country’s best shot at ending the ongoing crisis.
As the world and the people of CAR wait and hope for free and fair elections, Al Jazeera reported that there has been some doubt regarding the ability of the government to enable this to happen.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Souleymane Ndiaye, former prime Minister of Senegal and the Head of the African Union’s (AU) Election Observer Mission, answered when questioned whether all actions have been taken to create a free and fair election Ndiaye that he had “met with the UN Head in CAR, to talk about the election preparations and training of staff and the set up of polling stations. He told me that all the material is en route to every polling station. You can appreciate that there is some insecurity here, and so there were delays, but all is now on track.”
Whilst there is seemingly some positivity in regards to the elections taking place after numerous delays not all hold this optimistic outlook.
“Potentially, it’s very possible for any armed group to keep its major weapons and be able to strike,” Roland Marchal, a researcher with the Paris Institute of Political Sciences, told Deutsche Welle.
The fear is that conflict could escalate during voting which in turn will prevent the process.
A researcher with Human Rights Watch, Lewis Mudge, told The Guardian that “there will most likely be some degree of violence associated with the elections,” and that “at the end of the day this is about the UN’s ability to contain violence, because – for all intents and purposes – the state’s security forces do not function.”