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Pope hopes Central African Republic vote will open ‘new chapter’


Pope in CARPope Francis on Sunday said he hoped upcoming elections in the Central African Republic will enable the conflict-wracked country to peacefully begin a “new chapter” as he arrived in the capital Bangui.

“It is my fervent wish that the various national consultations to be held in coming weeks will enable the country to embark serenely on a new chapter of its history,” Francis said as he flew in from Uganda on the most dangerous leg of his three-nation Africa tour.

A first round of legislative and presidential elections will take place on December 27, with the vote shaping up to be a major test of the country’s progress in its political transition following a wave of Christian-Muslim violence triggered by a 2013 coup.

“As the Central African Republic progressively moves, in spite of difficulties, towards the normalisation of its social and political life, I come to this land for the first time… as a pilgrim of peace and an apostle of hope,” he said.

CAR has been ensnared in civil war since 2013, with situation still volatile — including in Bangui where Francis will spend just over 24 hours.

Ahead of the vote, there will be a referendum on a proposed new constitution on December 13 in what is widely seen as a dress rehearsal for the elections.

Given the difficulties of organising polling in a country wracked by violence, it is possible that the elections could be delayed until early next year, although regional officials have expressed hope the new government could be in place by April.

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