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Central African Republic Approves New Constitution

Demonstrators in front of MINUSCA, the UN mission in CAR, call for more polling station security ahead of constitutional referendum, Bangui, Dec. 13, 2015.

Voters in the Central African Republic have overwhelmingly backed a constitutional referendum aimed at ending nearly three years of political instability.

Election officials Monday said provisional results show that 93 percent of voters were in favor of the new constitution, which would limit the president to two five-year terms, cut the power of the military and ensure religious freedom.

Election officials, however, said that turnout was only 38 percent in the December 13 vote.

The election was marred by sporadic violence, with the Red Cross reporting that five people were killed and at least 20 others injured on election day as supporters and opponents of the referendum traded gunfire in the capital, Bangui. The violence prompted United Nations peacekeepers to intervene and bolster security.

Unrest also was said to have disrupted voting in the north of the country.

The referendum is a prelude to national elections that are planned for December 27.

Thousands have been killed in CAR and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes since Muslim Seleka rebels briefly seized power and ousted President Francois Bozize. This led to the rise of a Christian militia and brutal fighting between Christians and Muslims.

A U.N. peacekeeping force is in CAR and Pope Francis visited last month, urging peace.

The country, a small nation of nearly 5 million people, has experienced frequent conflicts and coups since winning independence from France in 1960.

Some information is from AFP.