People in the Central African Republic (CAR) are going to the polls in much-delayed elections in the hope of putting an end to years of violence in the country.
Polling stations for the presidential and parliamentary votes opened on Wednesday. Thirty candidates, including former prime ministers, Anicet-Georges Dologuele and Martin Ziguele, are running for president.
The elections had been postponed four times since February 2015 due to insecurity and logistical challenges.
In a Tuesday statement, the United Nations (UN)’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for calm and credible elections in the African country.
He urged “all national stakeholders to commit themselves to ensuring that the elections are conducted in a peaceful and credible manner.”
The 11,000-strong UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) is working to reinforce security and prevent “any possible disruption to the election process,” he added.
The CAR has been convulsed by turmoil since 2013, when Christian anti-balaka militiamen launched coordinated attacks against the mostly Muslim Seleka group, which had toppled the government in March that year. Thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the conflict.
In December that year, France deployed troops to the CAR, a former French colony, after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution giving the African Union and France the go-ahead for the troop deployment, though the measure failed to end violence in the country.
According to the latest UN estimates, the conflict in the CAR has internally displaced some 400,000 people and forced more than 460,000 to flee to neighboring countries.