Monday, December 14, 2015

CAR: Violence hits referedum on new constitution

[VOA News] At least six people were wounded Sunday in fighting and gunfire in Bangui as voters in the Central African Republic cast ballots in a referendum on a new constitution intended to stop more than three years of violence.

A journalist with the French News Agency reports seeing two dead bodies and a dozen others in a mosque. But there has been no official word on election-related casualties.

Muslim and Christian militia members, who have been responsible for the violence, have threatened to stop the vote. But the United Nations representative in Bangui, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, said he was proud of the courage of voters who he said "braved every fear and threat."

"Central Africans have marked a historic day in the march to democracy in their country," he said Sunday.

Voters queue outside a polling station in Bangui on Dec. 13, 2015 to vote for the constitutional referendum, seen as a test run for presidential and parliamentary polls scheduled two weeks later aimed at ending two years of sectarian strife in the Central

If passed, the new constitution would limit the president to two five-year terms, cut the power of the military and ensure religious freedom.

Elections for a new president and parliament are scheduled to be held later this month.

Thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes since Muslim Seleka rebels briefly seized power in CAR and ousted President Francois Bozize.

This led to the rise of a Christian militia and brutal fighting between the Christians and Muslims.

Christians are also angered over a court decision barring Bozize from running in the upcoming election.

A U.N. peacekeeping force is in CAR and Pope Francis visited last month, urging peace.


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