Thursday, March 23, 2023

‘Persistent crisis’: what people in CAR think of Sunday polls | Election News

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The Central African Republic (CAR) is due to go to the polls on Sunday for the presidential and parliamentary elections.

On Saturday, the Constitutional Court rejected opposition demands to delay the elections, guaranteeing they will go as planned, despite a threat of growing violence.

Previously, unidentified “armed fighters” killed three United Nations peacekeepers, hours after a rebel coalition fighting the government called off a unilateral truce and reiterated calls to suspend elections.

The UN human rights office, OHCHR, warned a few days ago that the gun violence posed a serious threat to the safety of civilians and their right to vote.

A new rebel alliance has recently clashed with security forces in different parts of the country, including near the capital, Bangui, OHCHR said on Wednesday.

President Faustin-Archange Touadera is looking for a second term at the head of the country of five million, Sunday.

Earlier this month, the court rejected the presidential candidacy of former President François Bozize, saying he did not meet the “good character” requirement due to an arrest warrant and sanctions the UN against him for allegedly ordering assassinations, torture and other crimes while he was president.

CAR, rich in diamonds, wood and gold, has seen five coups d’état and numerous rebellions since independence from France in 1960. It has been plagued by insecurity since the overthrow of Bozize in 2013.

President Touadera’s international security partners, including Russia, France and Rwanda, responded to the violence by sending troops and equipment.

This is what the people of CAR told Al Jazeera about the current situation in the country and their views on the elections:

Alexander Cyril Ngozo, 30

[Adrienne Surprenant/Al Jazeera]

Alexander Cyril Ngozo is an election observer in Bangui.

“We are going through a crisis, but the government wants these elections to take place, regardless of the pressure exerted by the armed groups. Since the moment when the former president François Bozize registered his candidacy without complying with all the requirements, I am skeptical, thinking that problems could arise.

“I am particularly worried about my fellow citizens in the countryside. These are people who do not play politics. What is happening is not in their best interest and they are the ones who find themselves in this bad situation again.

Rusquin Ganzo, 28 years old

[Adrienne Surprenant/ Al Jazeera]

Rusquin Ganzo has his voting card and is ready to vote but remains “worried”.

“It’s because almost all of the territory is occupied by the rebels. I am perplexed given the prevailing security situation. We are a democratic country, but we have always gone through different political and military crises.

“For now, we can feel a bit of peace in Bangui, but in the regions, the rebels have started fighting again before the elections. For now, I see a humanitarian crisis looming on the horizon. With recent events, it is very complicated for my fellow citizens who have taken refuge in the forest.

Yvonne Vola, 80 years old

[Adrienne Surprenant/ Al Jazeera]

Yvonne Vola is the mother of nine children and has three grandchildren. She sells peanuts and cassava on a roadside in Bangui.

After a rumor that the rebel coalition was heading towards Bangui, panic engulfed the capital.

“I’m already old, but I had to run away that morning. I don’t think that’s true, it was one of those things that had just been said. But the people screamed and told everyone to run. I was afraid. It reminded me when the Seleka [rebel armed groups alliance] arrival.

“I took my voting card and I will go vote. This is my country, and I will vote to find lasting peace. I want peace to keep selling my stuff. With nine children, I have to try very hard. Without peace, it doesn’t work. We will be hungry.

Gypsiane Dhot, 26 years old

[Adrienne Surprenant/ Al Jazeera]

Gypsiane Dhot is an accountant by training but works as a distributor of electoral cards while waiting to find a job in her field.

“We had a very sad day, where people came in droves to collect their cards in the morning but with rumors and fear hardly anyone came in the afternoon,” she said, as the card distribution was extended for a day after the panic in Bangui over rumors that the rebels had arrived.

“I want Sunday to come quickly, to do my part. We want to vote for our new president so that he can bring peace to the country. For the moment, there is no peace in the provinces. People are dying because of the rebels and they don’t know if they have security.

Innocent Sanzima, 33

[Adrienne Surprenant/ Al Jazeera]

Innocent Sanzima (right) is on a road outside of Bangui.

He said: “We have the right to go and vote on Sunday. I’ll go to the office a mile from here [to vote] because we are looking for a president who can manage this country well. We are in uncertainty, often the UN forces are there, but the armed groups can come.

“There are currently a lot of people [talking shelter] in the bushes behind the hill. People pass by with their luggage. We come to the road to see what’s going on. We are still victims on this road, it reminds us of the bad memories of the arrival of the Seleka. My brother was shot and we lost a lot.

Report by Adrienne Surprenant in Bangui


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