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Voters head to polls in C. African Republic for stability

Supporters of Central African presidential candidate Faustin Archange Touadera hold a placard with Touedara’s campaign poster and reading “1st tour” during a presidential campaign rally in Bangui on 28 December 2015, on the last day of campaigning ahead of Central African Republic presidential and legislative elections.

Peacekeepers patrolled the streets in the Central African Republic on Wednesday, as two million voters began to cast ballots in a presidential election tasked with restoring democratic rule after years of interreligious violence that have left thousands dead.

When Djotodia quit in January 2014 under global pressure, his disbanded Seleka rebels were running amok even as new president Catherine Samba-Panza was sworn in to oversee a transition to the new elections.

At least two people were killed and a dozen injured two weeks earlier in violence during the referendum on the new constitution, which voters overwhelmingly approved.

The CAR, a Christian-majority country, has been wracked by bloody violence since a mainly Muslim rebel alliance, the Seleka, ousted former President Francois Bozize in a March 2013 coup, installing Muslim leader Michel Djotodia in his stead.

I 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 vehicle, to talk about the election preparations and training of staff and the set up of polling stations”.

Christians and Muslims alike came forward on a massive scale to ensure their names were on the electoral roll and to collect their voters’ cards, many saying they never again wanted to hear gunfire or other manifestations of violence.

A band of mostly Christian militias, called the anti-Balaka, then took up arms against the Seleka.

A transitional government has steered the nation toward elections that have been delayed several times.

Nearly 70 percent of the country’s 4.8 million inhabitants live in poverty, and in 2014 the World Bank estimated per capita income at $320 (295 euros), making it one of the world’s poorest countries.

“If the elections are not just and transparent, they risk to be a new source of problems”, he said.

Some 11,000 United Nations and French peacekeepers are helping to protect the polls. With 30 candidates competing for the presidency, most in the country predict the vote will go to a run-off in late January.

Central African Republic presidential candidate Abdoul Karim Meckassoua Abdoul Karim Meckassoua serv …

Elections for the 105-member National Assembly are also in progress.

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