United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The UN Security Council said Wednesday that refugees from the Central African Republic must be allowed to vote in key elections set for October, the first since the country descended into bloodshed in 2013.
The country's transitional authorities have rejected a draft electoral bill that would allow tens of thousands of refugees, most of whom are Muslims driven from their homes, to vote by absentee ballot.
"Those who are out of the country should be able to vote within the country. It should include every citizen of the Central African Republic," Nigerian Ambassador Joy Ogwu told reporters following a council meeting.
The 15-member council agreed in a unanimous statement that the "absolute priority is the organization of elections which should be inclusive."
Presidential and parliamentary elections are set for October 18 in the Central African Republic, which exploded into sectarian violence following a 2013 coup that pitted mainly Muslim rebels against Christian militias.
Security remains fragile in the impoverished former French colony where the long-delayed elections are shaping up as a test for the prospects of reconciliation.
UN envoy Babacar Gaye, who also heads the MINUSCA peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic, told the council that $11 million was needed to fund preparations for the elections.
About 478,000 people out of two million potential voters have registered to vote, Gaye said.
But the country's electoral authorities have yet to register potential voters among the 400,000 refugees who fled to Chad and other neighboring countries, he said. Up to 85 percent of the refugees are Muslim.
"I am confident that the refugees will participate in these elections," Gaye told reporters.
"It is an important indicator for the credibility of these elections."
The envoy appealed for donor funding to shore up efforts to disarm rebel groups and urged CAR's authorities to set up truth committees to promote reconciliation.