LNC with AFP
BANGUI – The death toll from clashes sparked by a referendum in the Central African Republic capital Bangui has risen to five as the Red Cross reported another three lives lost.
UN peacekeepers and French soldiers were massed in the flashpoint district on Monday to allow voters to complete polling in the referendum aimed at ending years of sectarian strife.
Some factions of the mainly Muslim Seleka force had threatened to block the vote, as had some supporters of the mainly Christian militia known as Anti-Balaka.
Among the latter were backers of ousted president Francois Bozize, whose candidacy for the upcoming presidential election has been rejected by the country’s constitutional court.
Violence also marred polling elsewhere in the former French colony, notably in the north and east, according to an unnamed source in the United Nations peacekeeping force – Minusca – sent in to quell fighting that has forced 10 per cent of the population to flee their homes.
Another 20 people were wounded, several seriously, in Sunday’s fighting, the Red Cross said.
The vote is seen as a test run for presidential and parliamentary elections due to take place December 27 to end more than two years of conflict between the Muslim and Christian militias.
The proposed constitution would limit presidential tenure to two terms, fight institutional corruption and rein in armed militias blamed for years of chaos and terror.
If adopted, it would usher in the sixth republic since independence from France in 1960 and mark the 13th political regime in a country notorious for its chronic instability.
Unrest has forced the impoverished country to postpone elections repeatedly despite intense international pressure to hold them.
The Central African Republic plunged into its worst crisis since independence after Bozize was ousted by rebels from the Seleka force in March 2013, triggering a wave of tit-for-tat violence with Anti-Balaka militias.