re posted from Presstv.com
Constitutional referendum begins in violence-wracked CAR
People in the Central African Republic (CAR) have started voting on the new constitution adopted by the transitional government as violent clashes grip the landlocked African state.
Approximately two million citizens out of a population of 4.8 million have registered to cast their ballots in Sunday’s referendum aimed at moving the violence-hit country toward stability.
An unidentified UN peacekeeping source said voting began late in several districts across the capital city of Bangui, but not in the troubled PK5 district, where gunfire broke out overnight.
According to reports, many of the 5,600 polling stations in the CAR are located in remote regions.
Chaos has also hampered the organization of the ballot while just 15,000 copies of the new constitution have been published, meaning many voters are unaware of its contents.
On the eve of Sunday’s referendum, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged all those organizing the ballot to ensure that it is conducted in a credible and peaceful manner.
“The referendum is a significant milestone towards the end of the transition in the Central African Republic, which will lay new foundations for a stable future for the country and its people,” Ban was quoted as saying in a statement.
The vote comes almost two weeks after Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, visited the CAR, where he called for reconciliation between Muslims and Christians.
Presidential and parliamentary elections are also scheduled to be held in the African country on December 27.
The CAR plunged into crisis in December 2013, when Christian anti-balaka militia began coordinated attacks against the country’s mostly Muslim Seleka group, which toppled the government in March that year.
France invaded later its former colony after the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution giving the African Union and France the go-ahead to send troops to the country. However, the invasion has failed to end the violence.
According to the latest UN estimates, the conflict in the CAR has internally displaced 399,000 people and forced more than 460,000 to flee to neighboring countries