More than 14 percent of polling stations in the Central African Republic (CAR) failed to operate during Sunday’s presidential and legislative election due to armed rebels who attacked voters and barred electoral staff, the electoral commission said.
About 800 out of a total 5,408 polling stations nationwide did not open, Theophile Momokouama, an executive of the electoral authority, told a news conference in Bangui on Monday.
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“There were localities where voters were brutalised, threatened with death. The electoral staff were forbidden to deploy on the ground,” Momokouama said.
Evariste Mongo, a member of the local administration, said on Monday the attacks occurred in the western cities of Carnot, Nola and Bambari. No injuries were reported.
Waves of violence
The diamond- and gold-rich nation of 4.7 million has struggled to stabilise due to successive waves of violence since 2013 that have killed thousands and forced more than a million from their homes.
“As of today, we do not know the proportion of Central Africans who were able to vote,” Momokouama said.
He said the commission was waiting for results from the regions for collation. The commission would then forward the provisional results to the constitutional court which will publish them.
The election campaign was marred by threats from armed rebel groups that promised to march on the capital and disrupt the vote after several candidates, including former President Francois Bozize, were barred from running.
Security forces, helped by more than 12,000 United Nations peacekeepers, and reinforcement from partners Russia and Rwanda, managed to fend off attacks in the capital and some towns, but rebels were able to stop the vote in some areas of a sparsely populated country larger than France.
On Friday, three UN peacekeepers were killed after an attack on domestic security forces and the MINUSCA mission in Dekoa, Kemo prefecture, and Bakouma in Mbomou prefecture.
Security Minister Henri Wanzet-Linguissara told the news conference that some rebel groups were aided by foreign mercenaries, enabling them to take control of some towns.
In Bouar, about 435km (270 miles) northwest of the capital where heavy gunfire prevented voting, terrified residents were still hiding in their homes on Monday.
“The armed groups are still near the town. Yesterday it was very difficult for us. We couldn’t vote. They ransacked polling stations. For now, the city is almost empty,” a resident said by phone.