Chaos Erupts in CAR as Country Votes for Constitution in Lead-up to Presidential PollsDecember 15, 2015 in Central Africa Republic
On Sunday, 13 December, violence erupted in the capital city, Bangui as Central Africans tried to vote for the country’s new constitution. The referendum, which is a precursor to long-delayed presidential and legislative elections due on 27 December, is also seen as a test of whether national elections can take place. The political situation in the CAR was further complicated on Tuesday after a Central African rebel leader declared an autonomous state in his northeastern stronghold.
On Sunday, gunfire, a grenade explosion and threats of violence prevented many from voting in a constitutional referendum seen as a test of whether national elections can take place at the end of this month. According to a source, an attack on a voting station in the PK5 neighbourhood by gunmen killed at least one person and injured six others. Gunshots had been heard in the Bangui neighbourhood since early on Sunday. There was also a grenade explosion near a voting centre in the northern Gobongo neighbourhood of the capital. That incident resulted in three people injured. Meanwhile in Kaga Bandoro in the country’s north, an armed group threatened to kill people who went to vote while in the central town of Bria, voting material was set on fire. While the referendum, for which 2 million people were registered to vote at more than 5,500 stations, continued elsewhere, there were some reports of missing voter cards.
Due to Sunday’s violence, the referendum spilled into a second day on Monday. According to a Red Cross official, five people were killed and thirty-four others were wounded during clashes that erupted in Bangui. A military commander of the UN peacekeeping mission has disclosed that the clashes were an attempt by “spoilers” to block the vote from taking place. While on Monday, on the ground sources reported that the streets of Bangui were calm, with soldiers from the UN’s MINUSCA mission visible at key junctions, a spokesman for the prime minister’s office has disclosed that voters in some northern parts of the country were not able to participate because fighters loyal to Seleka commander Noureddine Adam had blocked the vote. Adam’s faction states that conditions, such as the return of refugees, are not in place to allow polls to proceed. The situation in the CAR was further complicated on Tuesday when Adam declared an autonomous state in his northeastern stronghold after rejecting elections this month, which are aimed at ending years of bloodshed.
According to Maouloud Moussa, a spokesman and chief lieutenant for Adam, “the Republic of Logone was proclaimed Dec. 14 in (the town of) Kaga-Bandoro,” adding, “what we want first of all is autonomy. Then we’ll look at how to move towards independence.”
The spokesman for the CAR’s transitional government immediately denounced the rebels’ declaration. Dominique Said Panguindji stated, “we call upon the international community and the international forces present in Central African Republic to do everything possible to neutralize the capacity to do harm of these terrorists.”