The Central African Republic is holding presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday. The UN has warned that ongoing violence in the country threatens citizens' security and their right to vote.
Voters in the Central African Republic (CAR) headed to the polls on Sunday in the face of ongoing violence throughout the country.
Incumbent President Faustin Archange Touadera, who is seeking a second term, is the frontrunner. A new parliament is also being voted on.
The election comes after a week of turbulence. Militias hostile to Touadera have stepped up attacks across CAR since the constitutional court rejected several candidates, including former President Francois Bozize earlier this month.
On Friday, three United Nations peacekeepers were killed in attacks on the domestic security forces and the MINUSCA mission.
Touadera has struggled to control large areas of the resource-rich country since he was first elected in 2016, three years after a rebellion that ousted Bozize. He has accused Bozize of stirring the violence that has most recently beset CAR.
"He's the one who's organizing this," Touadera told DW. "They (the opposition) are the ones who provoked this violence. They mobilized the armed groups. They brought back violence ... and now they want to burst in to [the capital] Bangui to destabilize."
Touadera's main challenger is the former head of government, Anicet-Georges Dologuele, who is backed by Bozize. The election will go to a second round if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote.
Years of bloodshed
Thousands of people have died in successive waves of violence since 2013. More than 1 million of the country's population of 4.9 million have been forced to flee their homes.
A French military intervention together with MINUSCA, the UN peace mission, has temporarily stabilized the country somewhat since a peace accord was signed in 2019, but violence continues to flare up.
According to the UN, rebels in the country are being supported by Bozize, and the recent attacks on peacekeeping forces were aimed at stopping the election process.
"Today, it is troublemakers such as Bozize who want to sabotage the elections process, because he is not permitted to be elected. They foment fear in the population," Mankeur Ndiaye, the UN special representative for CAR, told DW.
"We must fight for a credible election," he added.
The recent increase in fighting prompted Russia and neighboring Rwanda to deploy troops to the country.
When asked by DW about the presence of Russian military consultants in CAR, Touadera responded: "We are friends."
"Our relations with this country (Russia) date back to the 1960s," he said. "The Central African Republic is a fragile, post-conflict country. So here ... we want our cooperation with our friends to be complementary."
dr/mm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)