New woman leader in CAR raises hopes

By Drum Digital
22 January 2014

The new leader of the Central African Republic pledged Tuesday to form a government based on skills rather than religion as she sought to end months of Christian-Muslim bloodshed.

A day after Bangui's mayor Catherine Samba-Panza was elected transitional president by the interim parliament, residents said the capital was unusually calm, apart from isolated acts of looting by gangs of youths.

The city remained under nightly curfew and was patrolled by French and African soldiers.

Saying she wanted a government of technocrats free of corruption, Samba-Panza told a French radio station that she would appoint people regardless of their religious affiliation.

She added that she will hold talks with militant groups in an attempt to restore order in the conflict-ridden country.

"I want to meet with the armed groups and listen to them,"  Samba-Panza said  "If they took up arms, then there is a reason for that."

The public and politicians alike hailed the choice of the first woman to lead the CAR after ten months of spiralling violence between Muslim former rebels and Christian vigilantes, which has displaced a million people in the population of 4.6 million.

Residents welcomed the "resounding appeal" by "Madame Catherine" for both the Christian self-defence militias known as "anti-balaka" (anti-machete) and the Muslim fighters to lay down their arms and "show your support for my nomination".

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