Jan. 20 - The newly elected interim leader of Central African Republic calls on mainly Muslim former rebels and the Christian militia battling them to lay down their weapons. Mana Rabiee reports.
This is the new interim president of Central African Republic: Catherine Samba-Panza. She's Africa's third post-colonial female head of state. On Monday, lawmakers cast their ballots for this former mayor of the capital, Bangui. The 59-year will now have to lead the country out of months of sectarian killings towards fresh elections. (SOUNDBITE) (French) INTERIM PRESIDENT OF CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, CATHERINE SAMBA-PANZA, SAYING (IN RESPONSE TO JOURNALIST ASKING IF SHE IS HAPPY): "I am happy. I am honoring the women of Central African Republic." Samba-Panza succeeds a president who led a mostly Muslim rebel coalition that had seized power in March. He stepped down this month under international pressure for failing to stop the sectarian bloodshed that erupted after the revolt. As candidate, she had to show she had no link to either the Muslim militias, nor to the Christian militias - called anti-balaka --- who were fighting them back. The anti-balaka had threatened to protest the vote, but a spokesman said they're happy with Samba-Panza's election. (SOUNDBITE) (French) SUB-PREFECT, PIERRETTE BENGUERE, SAYING: "She has character, and deserves to be president, to be our rallying person in this country to bring back peace." Samba-Panza appealed to both sides to lay down their weapons. Nearly a quarter of the country has fled the violence and the UN has warned that the conflict - if the violence doesn't stop -- could slip into genocide.