BANGUI , Central African Republic, Voters in the Central African Republic went to the polls Wednesday after rebels ended a threat to disrupt the presidential and legislative election.
Long lines of voters were observed in the capital, Bangui, and in other communities. It is hoped the election will end a three-year period of sectarian conflict, begun when the Muslim Seleka rebel group seized power in the impoverished, diamond-producing nation in 2013. Christian militias took up the fight against the Selekas, and United Nations military forces are now charged with maintaining order in the country.
Thousands have been killed, and 20 percent of the republic’s population has fled to neighboring countries.
Two former prime ministers, Anicet-Georges Dologuele and Martin Ziguele, are front-runners in a 30-candidate field; a third is Karim Meckassoua, who served in the government of President Francois Bozize until 2013. A runoff election, which is likely, will be conducted Jan. 30 if no candidate receives a majority of the vote Wednesday.
Elections for the 105-member National Assembly are also in progress. The election has been postponed four times since February, because of logistical problems and the threat of violence.
Pope Francis briefly visited the republic in November, calling for peace between Christians and Muslims.
By Ed Adamczyk