By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Registered voters in the Central African Republic (CAR) have turned up for polls on Sunday 27 December 2020 to elect the country’s next president for the next four years as well as 140 members of the national assembly.
Incumbent President Faustin-Archange Touadera is contesting for a second term and is expected to be leading the race as the candidacy of his main rival and former President Francois Bozize was rejected by the Constitutional Court.
The polls take place after a week of turbulence, marked by accusations of an attempted coup, the brief seizure of the CAR’s fourth-largest town, and the dispatch of military personnel by Russia and Rwanda to help its staggering government.
According to reports, U.N. peacekeepers and local and Rwandan soldiers were seen patrolling the streets throughout the capital, with armored vehicles posted outside voting places armed with machine guns.
According to a senior UN official In the northwest, more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) from the capital, rebels seized election materials in Koui and election officials received death threats in Ngaoundaye and In some areas, rebels threatened anyone who went to vote.
There was a delay of around 50 minutes before some polling stations in Bangui opened as voting materials were not delivered on time.
Meanwhile, thousands of people had not received their voter cards due to insecurity, according to local and UN officials who all requested anonymity.
Ousted former president Francois Bozize, who was barred from standing and has been accused by the government of plotting a coup, urged people not to vote and backed a rebel coalition.
“I call on you, my countrymen, not to vote. Stay at home. Let Touadera place his ballot in the box alone,” Bozize said.
The mineral-rich but poverty-stricken country has been chronically unstable since independence 60 years ago.
Thousands of people have died since a civil war erupted in 2013 and more than a quarter of the population of 4.9 million have fled their homes. Of these, 675,000 are refugees in neighboring countries and cannot vote.
Even though bloodshed has receded in intensity over the last two years, violence remains chronic. Militia groups hold sway over two-thirds of the territory, spurring fears about the intimidation that could also affect turnout.
Experts and opposition figures 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.
Around 1,500 candidates are contesting the 140 seats in the national assembly, but many have been unable to campaign because of insecurity.
On December 19, the government accused armed groups of banding together and advancing on the capital in a plot allegedly fomented by Bozize, a charge he denies.
Fears about the rebels swept the city in the following days, although the UN peacekeeping force MINUSCA, said their advance had been stopped following the death of their three members who were attacked and killed on Saturday.