New president takes reins of Central African Republic

Central African Republic’s new interim president Catherine Samba Panza has been sworn, tasked with ending horrific sectarian violence and tackling a massive humanitarian crisis.

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The World Bank has pledged to raise $US100 million ($A113 million) to help kickstart the paralysed state, one of many daunting challenges facing the country’s first female president.

Samba Panza takes over from Michel Djotodia who resigned under international pressure after failing to rein in the mainly Muslim rebel Seleka group, which brought him to power in March 2013.

Months of atrocities by the Seleka prompted Christians to form self-defence militias known as the anti-balaka (anti-machete), stoking a revenge cycle of religious hatred and bloodshed that has claimed thousands of lives. The United Nations has warned of a potential genocide.

Samba Panza was sworn in by the interim constitutional court in a ceremony attended by Gabon’s President Omar Bongo Ondimba and Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister of former colonial power France.

She vowed to “work only in the national interest” and not for personal gain.

She held a meeting with Fabius shortly before the ceremony in which she thanked him for France’s intervention in December under a UN mandate.

“Without the intervention of the (French) Sangaris force, I don’t know where the country would be today. I am deeply grateful to France,” she said.

Samba Panza is expected to appoint a prime minister as soon as Friday in the hope of forming a government early next week to begin tackling the nation’s vast challenges.

On Thursday French and African peacekeeping troops patrolled the capital Bangui, a day after fresh violence between the Christian and Muslim fighters claimed 10 lives.

About 400,000 people or half of Bangui’s population are still displaced. About a quarter of them live in a sprawling refugee camp near the airport and the bases of the foreign troops, too afraid to go back to their homes.

Most of the interior of the CAR is under the sway of warlords, according to Bangui’s Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga and the chief imam, Oumar Kobine Layama, who pleaded for further international help Wednesday in Paris.

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