UN warns against excluding refugees from C. Africa elections

14th July 2015, Comments 0 comments

The UN on Tuesday said it was "alarmed" that authorities in the Central African Republic planned to block refugees from voting in October polls, with nearly 200,000 mostly Muslims citizens facing exclusion.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled deadly civil unrest in the landlocked nation since 2013, with the upcoming vote seen as a key test for the prospects of reconciliation.

"We believe it would be a serious setback, not to say dangerous, to exclude refugees from the elections," Leo Dobbs, spokesman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said in Geneva.

The UN has previously said that organising inclusive elections in the troubled nation was crucial to restoring peace.

Dobbs' comments followed a decision from the country's National Transitional Council to reject a draft electoral bill that would allow absentee voting.

The UN estimates that one tenth of the country's population (roughly 460,000 people) has fled the country.

Among that group, the UNHCR said 190,000 people should be eligible to vote, 80 to 90 percent of whom are Muslim.

With sectarian violence persisting, it was unrealistic to expect the displaced to return home for polling day, the UN said.

"We are concerned that this decision... will exclude a significant section of the electorate from taking part in the political process that should lead to democratic and inclusive elections," the agency added.

The Central African vote is currently set for October 18, but the polls have already been pushed back three times as the former French colony grapples with its worst crisis since independence in 1960.

© 2015 AFP

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