CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC ASKS FOR UN HELP IN SECTARIAN VIOLENCE
NOTE: This post was written on September 29, 2014. However it was “lost” in WordPress.
The interim president of the Central African Republic attended her first General Assembly of the United Nations to ask the world community to help bring peace back to her war-torn country. Catherine Samba-Panza met with reporters on Sunday, September 21, the day before going to the UN.
Samba-Panza is only the third woman to lead an African country, joining Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Malawi’s Joyce Banda.
She presides over a country in the midst of fighting between Muslim rebels and Christian militia troops. Each side has been accused of killing civilians. Nearly a million people –– about a quarter of the population — have been displaced or fled to refugee camps to avoid the violence.
Samba-Panza was elected in January 2014 after the previous president, Muslim rebel leader Michel Djotodia, resigned under pressure. He had taken office in March 2013 after a coup by his troops ousted former President Francois Bozize.
Samba-Panza has experience as a corporate lawyer, businesswoman and women’s rights activist. She was appointed mayor of the nation’s capitol Bangui upon Bozize’s ouster.
She has a clear agenda in her appearance before the general assembly.
“Our main message will be to ask the international community to support us and the help the country to recover,” she said.
Recovery, she believes, depends on several things. First she wants help in increasing security.
“The second one is to build the capacity of the security and defense services and to support justice and also to give support to the recovery program.”
In her acceptance speech in January she called on both factions to lay down their arms. Both sides appeared to listen.
“As mother and as a woman I talked to them and they heard what I asked them to do,” she said.
“I think things will become better because we are on the process of peace restoration.”
She believes security is already better after a United Nations peacekeeping force took over security in mid-September.
“Now the UN forces implemented in the country, they are twice more than the African troops so it will help to improve the situation in the country.”
However thousands of people are still displaced and violence remains a problem.
One thing that Samba-Panza has going for her is that the Central African Republic does not have an outbreak of Ebola.
“I thank God that my country is not affected by Ebola because we already have many problems,” said Samba-Panza.
“If we had Ebola, I don’t really know how the country would be.”
In order to take office she had to agree that she would not run for the job when elections are held next year. Given that so few women get to lead African countries, will she try and change that?
“Since I am the transitional president I understand that politics concerning women should be done by the women. So now I will encourage women to promote themselves in politics.”