C. African Republic votes yes on constitutional referendum

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BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Central African Republic citizens have voted yes on a constitutional referendum meant to usher stability into the nation wracked by years of sectarian violence, according to partial results released Thursday.

Approval for the constitution stood at 90 percent, with 10 percent voting against it, said National Election Authority spokesman Julius Rufin Ngoadebaba. The vote Sunday was seen as a test for much-delayed national elections scheduled for Dec. 27 to replace a transitional government.

The proposals create a senate, allow for freedom of worship and intolerance for religious fundamentalism. It says a coup is a crime against the people, adding that perpetrators and accomplices of such acts cannot hold public offices.

The vote was delayed in areas where militias threatened violence against voters, and in the Muslim PK5 neighborhood in Bangui, where five people were killed by gunmen. Results have been partially added to the tally, as many are still en route to the data processing center, said Ngoadebaba.

The results come after hundreds of residents in PK5 marched Wednesday demanding armed groups withdraw and allow them to vote in elections. They asked the U.N. mission to help dislodge armed elements there, where violence has risen in recent months.

Pope Francis visited PK5 more than two weeks ago, calling for peace and reconciliation between the Christian and Muslim militias.

The overthrow of the president in 2013 ushered in a brutal reign in which the Muslim rebels committed atrocities. When the rebel leader left power in 2014, a swift and horrific backlash by the Christian anti-Balaka militia against Muslim civilians followed. Sectarian violence has continued ever since.

Muslim rebels this week proclaimed an autonomous state in the country's north. The new territory was immediately denounced by the country's transitional government and the U.N.

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