23 January 2014

Central African Republic: Looting in Capital As New President Sworn in

Witnesses report heavy looting in the Central African Republic's capital Thursday as the country's new interim president took office.

Reporter Nick Long, who is in Bangui, tells VOA that thousands of people looted houses in PK13, a predominantly Muslim suburb.

He says Rwandan peacekeepers chased away the looters but that looting resumed when the peacekeepers left to guard the swearing-in ceremony.

The CAR's new interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, appealed for calm this week ahead of her inauguration, held in the parliament Thursday.

The new president - the former mayor of Bangui - will face massive challenges after more than a year of political unrest and inter-religious violence in the country.

The United Nations estimates thousands have been killed in the CAR over the past year, and nearly a million displaced from their homes.

That number includes an estimated 500,000 in Bangui alone.

CAR Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza

59 years old

Born in Chad to Chadian father and Central African mother

Former businesswoman

Named Bangui mayor in 2013 after rebels toppled president

Elected interim president by CAR transitional council Jan. 20, 2014

CAR's first female president

French and African peacekeepers patrolling the capital have been largely unable to halt the violence. On Wednesday, Amnesty International warned of an upsurge of attacks against Muslims by the mostly Christian "anti-Balaka" militia groups.

The country descended into chaos after the mostly-Muslim Seleka rebels toppled President Francois Bozize last March.

Interim leader Michel Djotodia resigned January 10 under pressure from regional leaders because of his failure to stabilize the country.

Samba-Panza was chosen as interim president Monday by the CAR's transitional parliament. She is due to stay in office until national elections can be organized next year.

Images from the Central African Republic

Soldiers from the AU peacekeeping mission prepare to leave at the end of a speech given by Alexandre Nguendet, the head of Central African Republic's transitional assembly at the Gendarmerie headquarters in Bangui on Jan. 13, 2014.

Central African transitional parliament chief Alexandre Nguendet gives a speech in Bangui, Jan. 13, 2014.

People react to a speech given by Alexandre Nguendet, the head of Central African Republic's transitional assembly in Bangui, Jan. 13, 2014.

French soldiers man a street beside in Bangui, Jan. 12, 2014.

An anti-balaka soldier in Ouengo district in Bangui, Jan. 12, 2014.

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