Torn by strife for more than a year, the Central African Republic has made forward progress in its ongoing political crisis with the election of a new transitional president.
Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of Bangui, the CAR's capital city, prevailed among nine candidates considered by the nation's interim legislature on January 20 to lead the country until national elections can be held sometime over the next year.
Urging an end to the sectarian violence that has left many dead and displaced hundreds of thousands, in her victory speech to cheering parliamentarians she said she would serve as president of all Central Africans, “without exclusion."
Elections must be planned, cabinet ministries organized and the humanitarian needs met for the displaced that occupy crowded and overwhelmed refugee camps.
The celebrations will be brief, however, for the CAR's new leader faces a daunting task. Fighting continues in the capital and throughout the country. Elections must be planned, cabinet ministries organized and the humanitarian needs met for the displaced that occupy crowded and overwhelmed refugee camps. While the nation’s neighbors and others in the international community such as the United States have provided support and aid, the humanitarian needs are enormous.
The United States welcomes Catherine Samba-Panza’s selection. As the nation's first woman head of state since independence, and with her special background in human rights work and mediation, she has a unique opportunity to advance the political transition process, bring all the parties together to end the violence and move her country toward elections not later than February 2015. We also commend the Transitional National Council for conducting the selection process in a deliberate, open and transparent manner that ensured the airing of a full range of views from the CAR’s civil society.
We have been deeply engaged in CAR, including the important, high-level visits of our nation's ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield less than a month ago. The United States, along with regional leaders of the Economic Community of Central African States, the African Union and other members of the international community, hopes to support the new interim president and we call on the people of the CAR to work constructively with her, participate in the political process and avoid any resurgence in violence.