Lawmakers in Central African Republic, CAR, on Monday chose the mayor of Bangui Catherine Samba-Panza, to become interim president and lead the country out of months of sectarian killings towards elections.
Samba-Panza called on mainly Muslim former rebels and the Christian militia battling them to lay down their weapons as people sang and danced on the streets of the riverside city, Bangui, in celebration.
The 59-year old succeeds Michel Djotodia, leader of a mostly Muslim rebel coalition, Seleka, that seized power in March.
Djotodia stepped down this month under international pressure after failing to halt bloodshed that erupted after the revolt.
Waves of killing and looting by Seleka fighters triggered revenge attacks by Christian militia known as ‘anti-balaka’, fuelling unprecedented cycles of violence between communities that had previously lived side-by-side.
“I am the president of all Central Africans, without exception,” said Samba-Panza, who had to show she had no link to either camp in the fighting to qualify for the post.
“I appeal to my anti-balaka and Seleka children to listen to me and together lay down your weapons,” she added.
Samba-Panza defeated seven other candidates in Monday’s contest, winning a second-round runoff by 75 votes to 53 for her closest rival Desire Kolingba, the son of former president Andre Kolingba.