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France sends flyover mission to Central African Republic amid election tensions

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By Euronews with AP
Faustin-Archange Touadera, President of the Central African Republic, gives a speech in a campaign rally in Bangui
Faustin-Archange Touadera, President of the Central African Republic, gives a speech in a campaign rally in Bangui   -   Copyright  André Bâ/Xinhua via AP
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France sent a flyover mission in the Central African Republic on Wednesday, the French Presidency said in a statement..

The move follows a conversation between Central African President Faustin-Archange Touadera and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, and takes place ahead of a tensely awaited general election on Sunday.

"At the request of President Touadera, and in agreement with [the UN mission] MINUSCA, the President of the Republic ordered a mission of warplanes to fly over Central African territory," the Elysée said.

"This mission (...) marks France's condemnation of the attempts to destabilise the country," the statement added.

Rwanda and Russia send troops

Rwanda and Russia have also sent troops to the Central African Republic as violence threatens the election in the mineral-rich country.

Government forces have clashed with rebels in recent days as the United Nations’ peacekeeping force tried to prevent a blockade of Bangui, the capital.

The government, along with Rwanda, has blamed the tensions on former President Francois Bozize, alleging an attempted power grab after the Constitutional Court rejected his candidacy. Bozize faces an international arrest warrant for “crimes against humanity and incitement of genocide.”

Parties in the Democratic Opposition Coalition known as COD-2020 this week said seven of its candidates will pull out of the race, citing the violence.

The parties had wanted the vote to be delayed, alleging poor preparations and an electoral body influenced by the president.

A long civil war

The Central African Republic has faced deadly inter-religious and inter-communal fighting since 2013, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power from Bozize.

Resistance to Seleka rule eventually led to Muslims being targeted en masse, with tens of thousands forced from the capital in 2014.

Despite a 2019 peace agreement between the government and rebel groups, intermittent violence and human rights abuses have continued.