The Mayor of Bangui Catherine Samba-Panza has been appointed interim President for the Central African Republic. The 59 year old was chosen as the first woman to lead the country for about the next year until elections can be held. Her election comes at a time when the Central African Republic seeks to end the bloody clashes between Christians and Muslims. She had been Mayor of Bangui since 2012. Samba-Panza is a christian but viewed as politically neutral in the current religiously charged environment.
Catherine was born in Fort Lamy, in the French Equatorial Africa now present day Chad. Her father is believed to be Cameroonian and her mother from the Central African Republic (CAR). She studied law as a young woman before setting up an insurance brokerage firm. Prior to entering politics in 2003 she was a businesswoman and corporate lawyer. She was also known to fight for equal rights for women as well as for the rights of victims of sexual violence.
Samba-Panza is married and has three children.
Central African Republic (CAR)
The former French colony of Ubangi-Shari became the Central African Republic upon independence in 1960 from France. After three tumultuous decades of misrule – mostly by military governments – civilian rule was established in 1993 and lasted for one decade. In March, 2003 President Ange-Felix PATASSE was deposed in a military coup led by General Francois BOZIZE, who established a transitional government. Elections held in 2005 affirmed General BOZIZE as president; he was reelected in 2011 in voting widely viewed as flawed. The government still does not fully control the countryside, where pockets of lawlessness persist. The militant group the Lord’s Resistance Army continues to destabilize southeastern Central African Republic, and several rebel groups joined together in early December 2012 to launch a series of attacks that left them in control of numerous towns in the northern and central parts of the country. The rebels – who are unhappy with BOZIZE’s government – participated in peace talks in early January 2013 which resulted in a coalition government including the rebellion’s leadership. In March 2013, the coalition government dissolved, rebels seized the capital, and President BOZIZE fled the country. Rebel leader Michel DJOTODIA assumed the presidency, reappointed Nicolas TIANGAYE as Prime Minister, and established a transitional government on 31 March. On 13 April 2013, the National Transitional Council affirmed DJOTODIA as President. (CIA Factbook, 2013)