Voters marched and cheered in the streets of Central African Republic on Sunday morning after Faustin-Archange Touadéra defeated Anicet Georges Doléguélé in a presidential election many citizens hope will mark a return to normalcy in the war-torn country.
The presidential election was the country’s first since the start of a Christian-Muslim conflict in 2012.
“Together, we’re going to make Central African Republic a united, solidified and prosperous nation,” the president-elect said in his acceptance speech.
Mr. Touadéra inherits a poor and landlocked country, violently cleaved along religious lines.
A fifth of the nation’s five million people have fled their homes since the conflict erupted in 2012.
Militants have burned many villages across the nation’s interior.
No organization has been able to tally how many thousands of people have died.
Nestled between the Congo rain forest and the Sahara, Central African Republic has been challenged by continuous rebellions since it gained independence from France in 1960.
A succession of rebels, soldiers and army officers have repeatedly toppled rulers and then tried to govern this country since the 1960s.
None has managed to considerably improve the livelihood of the citizenry, 55% of whom currently require food aid, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
The rebellion that began in 2012 has proven to be the most destructive in the country’s recent history, as militants divided religious lines.
They have lynched, raped and tortured civilians of the opposing faith. In 2013, the French military dispatched troops to quash religious cleansing.
Since then, those troops have watched the country split in half. Muslims have almost entirely fled the capital Bangui, which is mostly Christian, and headed north, where some militants hope to create a separate, Muslim nation.
Christians have also fled south, completing a de facto partitioning of the country.