Polls open in Central African Republic elections

Only a small share of the population is likely to be able to vote freely, as two-thirds of the country has been under the control of armed groups for the past eight years.

FILE: Egyptian commandos of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) patrol in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), as they pass an election poster of CAR President Faustin Archange Touadera on 25 December 2020. Picture: AFP.

BANGUI - Polling stations opened Sunday for presidential and legislative elections in the Central African Republic (CAR), AFP journalists saw, as the country remains torn by civil war and a new rebel offensive threatens the capital.

There was a delay of around 50 minutes before some polling stations in Bangui opened as voting materials had not been delivered on time, AFP journalists saw.

UN peacekeepers and local and Rwandan soldiers were patrolling the streets throughout the capital, with armoured vehicles posted outside voting places armed with machine guns.

Only a small share of the population is likely to be able to vote freely, as two-thirds of the country has been under the control of armed groups for the past eight years.

The most powerful among them joined forces nine days ago in a new rebellion, planning to march on the capital and halt the elections.

For now, they have been kept at arm's length with help from Russian paramilitaries, Rwandan soldiers and blue-helmeted peacekeepers from the UN's MINUSCA mission to one of the world's poorest countries.

Experts and opposition figures in Central African Republic have already asked what legitimacy the president and 140 MPs to be elected will have, given the obstacles to a large proportion of people outside Bangui voting freely.

Senior officials at the election organising authority told AFP that where polling stations had opened late, voting would continue for an additional 50 minutes, including at the Boganda secondary school in eastern Bangui where a few dozen people were waiting for the doors to open.

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