The United Nations and human rights activists have warned against violence ahead of upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in the Central African Republic.
Armed violence is a serious threat to the security of civilians and their right to vote in Sunday’s elections, the UN human rights office said on Wednesday.
There have been reports of attacks on security forces, electoral candidates and election officials, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said.
A new rebel alliance has clashed with security forces in different parts of the country in recent days, including near the capital Bangui, the UN added.
The non-profit organization Human Rights Watch said at least five civilians were killed in the clashes and that thousands had fled.
According to Minusca, the UN peace mission in the country, the rebels are being supported by former president Francois Bozize, who was barred from standing for re-election by the Constitutional Court. The attacks were reportedly aimed at halting the election process.
Incumbent Faustin-Archange Touadera is competing for a second presidential term at the election, while a new parliament is being elected at the same time.
French President Emmanuel Macron condemned actions by armed groups and individual politicians including Bozize during a phone call with Touadera on Wednesday, the Elysee Palace announced.
At Touadera’s request and in consultation with the UN peacekeeping mission, French fighter jets had flown over the country on Wednesday.
This was a signal against attempts to unbalance the country, he said.
The oil-rich Central African Republic has been battered by conflict for years, with clashes between a predominantly Muslim rebel coalition and Christian militias after Bozize was toppled in 2013.
A French military intervention together with a UN peace mission temporarily stabilized the country with a peace accord signed in 2019, but there are recurring violent flare-ups.
The recent rise of violence has prompted Russia and Rwanda to deploy military consultants and troops in the country.