23 January 2014

Central African Republic: Central Africans 'Fed Up of Male Politicians' Says President Samba-Panza

Central Africa's new interim president Catherine Samba-Panza says she wants to "meet the armed groups and listen to them" during a press conference at ... ( Resource: Central Africa's New President Wants to "Meet the Armed Groups"

Catherine Samba Panza, whose swearing in as new president of the Central African Republic takes place on Thursday, says she was elected because the country's people "didn't want any more male politicians".

The former businesswoman told RFI's Christophe Boisbouvier that she sensed a wish among the people of CAR for a female leader "who could calm things, reconcile people."

Her job will be difficult. She takes charge of a country wracked by sectarian violence and struggling with the resulting humanitarian crisis.

Samba Panza hopes that her own background will help bridge differences between the different communities. She was born in Chad to a Cameroonian father and a Central African mother and stressed that she "belongs to three countries, even though I only have one nationality. This cultural mix enriches me and helps me have an open mind which stops me from being xenophobic."

The new president expects her experience at the held of the National Reconciliation Forum in 2003 will also stand her in good stead and she told RFI that as Mayor of Bangui she had always had "extremely good relations" with different groups.

She succeeds Michel Djotodia, the country's first Muslim president, who was installed in March last year after a coup by his mainly Muslim Seleka rebels.

He stepped down on 11 January after proving incapable of controlling the Seleka, and its dissident elements whose attacks on Christians provoked a conflict between the two religious groups.

Samba Panza is expected rapidly to appoint a prime minister, probably by Friday night, in the hope of forming a government early next week.

She has not ruled out appointing a Muslim though she says considers religion less important than competence and honesty.

About 400,000 people or half of Bangui's population are still displaced.

About a quarter of them subsist in a sprawling refugee camp near the airport and the bases of the foreign troops, too scared to go home.

Samba Panza also warned on Thursday that foreign troop numbers were "not sufficient to regain order in Bangui", in an interview with the French daily Le Parisien.

She told the newspaper that she hoped more European countries would "follow France's example".

Samba Panza is due to oversee a political transition that will lead to general elections in February 2015, when she will be banned from standing again for office.

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