The day of reckoning arrived with more than two million citizens from the Central African Republic going en masse to cast their votes on Wednesday, December 30th 2015, to choose their president and representatives in the Central Assembly. These elections, which had been repeatedly postponed (the previous date set had been December, 27th, 2015), should enable the country to emerge from the political crisis that has beleaguered it for the last three years.
The Central African Republic has for the last three years experienced a conflict that has resulted inter alia in over 500,000 people who are displaced internally and a comparable number of refugees who are to be found living in neighbouring countries. These elections are regarded by many as an opportunity to re-establish peace and social cohesion while also promoting economic and social development.
In Bangui, as in other regions of the country where the electoral campaign and elections are conducted in a climate of peace and tranquility, long queues have been observed even before the opening of the voting booths at 6 am.
“Despite the fact I am 80 years old, I have come to vote because I yearn for peace and security, and it is important for children to be able to go to school and for us to put food on the table,” says Ameline Sambia, the first person to cast her vote in election booth 1008 in the first arrondissement. Guy Mbitigiza, who is thirty or so, has been waiting for the last two hours to do his civic duty. With a cheerful smile, Guy states that today is an important day for him because he is going to cast his vote. “Today I got up with a spring in my step because I was going to vote,” he says. For Guy, these elections will help the Central African Republic to overcome its difficulties. Meanwhile, Abakar Toukoure makes it clear that he is voting for democracy, freedom and the country´s development. “Without democracy and freedom, nothing works,” he emphasizes. Agreeing with Guy, Ameline and Abakar, many citizens of the Central African Republic believe that these elections will play their part in bringing to an end three years of violence.
The National Elections Authority (ANE) is at work to ensure that the elections are held in an appropriate manner for the CAR and that they are in line with international regulations. “Despite some difficulties identified here and there, the ballot has been carried out satisfactorily in all parts of the country. One has witnessed an unprecedented interest on the part of voters who have been displaced in considerable numbers and who have nonetheless cast their votes in an atmosphere of calm,” announced the ANE General Rapporteur, Julius Rufin Ngouadé-Baba, who added that the ANE expects this positive atmosphere to continue until the election results are announced.
Broad-based electoral assistance involving the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the 2014-2016 Project to Support the Electoral Cycle in the Central African Republic, implemented by the UNDP, supports the National Elections Authority in the Central African Republic in terms of facilitating the organization of credible and peaceful elections. In this context, this joint action has enabled the registration of 1,954,433 people including 945,128 women and 1,009,305 men, the acquisition of 4 million voter registration forms, and the production of 6.8 million ballot slips for the presidential and legislative elections. The UNDP has completed the acquisition of voting materials, including 15,000 electoral kits, 12,000 sixty-litre ballot boxes, 12,000 voting booths, and 15,000 containers of indelible ink. To ensure the better organization of these elections, 18,000 workers have been trained and deployed in nearly 5,600 polling stations throughout the country.
The UNDP, working in close cooperation with MINUSCA, has significantly assisted ANE in implementing and making operational the Centre for the Management of Data (CTD) which has produced the electoral register and printed electoral lists for the first time in the electoral history of the Central African Republic. This centre, equipped with 350 individual computers with 350 power strips, 10 servers, 15 scanners and 11 printers as well as diverse hardware and equipment for installing electrical and IT networks, has created jobs for 250 young people from the Central African Republic who are being trained in the use of new computer technologies and data in the electoral field.
“The United Nations has supported this electoral process right across the board and our support will transcend the question of elections to reflect the broader framework of efforts to consolidate peace,” was the view expressed by the UNDP Resident Representative in the Central African Republic and the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative in charge of elections, Aurélien A. Agbénonci.
To promote the participation of women in the elections, UN Women, the UNDP and MINUSCA have trained female candidates for the electoral campaign. More than 100 individuals, 15 of whom are women, have participated in the discussion and adoption of a code of good conduct for political parties and candidates for the elections, with a view to overcoming the crisis that has beset the Central African Republic. Moreover, 60 people have participated in the round table regarding the participation of women in electoral processes as assistants at voting centres and stations. And additionally, more than 100 people have been trained in issues pertaining to gender and political participation. Given that civic and electoral education are a key factor in ensuring the success of ballots and the easing of tensions, radio and TV spots have been produced and broadcast, and posters have been designed, that encourage women to cast their votes.
The UNDP has been in a position to assist ANE in organizing elections thanks to the USD 31,288,982 that has been mobilized out of a total budget of USD 36,602,008 through a basket fund. The European Union, the African Union, France, Italy, Japan, the Kingdom of Morocco, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Republic of Congo, and the UNDP, as well as UN Women and the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, are the contributors to this particular basket fund. MINUSCA has strongly supported operations through its own resources. At the regional level, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Angola have announced their intention to contribute to the financing of elections in the CAR.
The second round of elections for the Presidency will take place on January 31st, 2016.