Central Africans hope ballot will bring peace

(REUTERS) - As residents in Bangui line up to collect their voter cards, hopes are high that this week's elections will finally put an end to the violence that has dogged the Central African Republic for nearly three years.

"There needs to be a major change. All the blood spilled, killing people here and there, it should not start again, we don't want that", said Bangui resident Angela Devis.

The Central African Republic will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on Wednesday (Dec 30).

Violence broke out in early 2013 after Muslim Seleka rebels seized power.

Abuses by the Selekas then fuelled the rise of Christian anti-Balaka militias, who launched attacks against Muslim civilians.

Thousands have been killed. And nearly a million have fled.

Now United Nations peacekeepers patrol the streets, wary of violence that broke out at an referendum here earlier this month.

At the National Elections Authority, spokesman Julius Rufin Ngoude-Baba says the agency is confident ahead of the vote.

"The ballot papers have been reissued, and those ballots are supposed to arrive in Bangui today. Every effort is being made to deploy them to the relevant constituencies so the election can go ahead on December 30, 2015," he said.

And whoever wins that day has a task ahead.

Not only will the President have to disarm thousands of fighters loyal to rebel and militia leaders, the new leader will also have to rebuild and reunite the nation after years of sectarian violence and mistrust.