|Catherine Samba-Panza (Source: Google Images)|
The Central African Republic has a new Interim President: Catherine Samba-Panza.
She is the first female politician to lead CAR and she inherited quite a legacy: a country thrown into bloody chaos.
Prior to having been nominated as the interim president, Ms Samba-Panza was appointed the mayor of Bangui last year; and before joining politics she was a businesswoman and a corporate lawyer.
Her role now is to re-organise CAR, cool down the animosity between Christians and Muslims and to prepare the country for presidential elections, next year. This will not be an easy task for even before Michél Djotodia and his Islamic thugs decided to assault CAR, the country already had its problems (e.g. since its independence it has experience several periods of political instability) and despite being extremely rich in natural resources it was considered one of the poorest countries in the world.
The minute President Samba-Panza took office she vowed to protect Central-African Muslims. She was born in Chad, therefore these words can be interpreted as a direct message to President Idriss Déby (who has been deeply involved in CAR's affairs for quite a while now) that if he controls the Séléka elements stemming from Chad (and his peacekeepers who are being accused of assisting the Islamic rebels), if he helps her put her country back on track while understanding that she must protect the interests of the Central African Republic; she is inclined to assist him on making Chad the "kingmaker" of the region.
Samba-Panza knows that even though CAR citizens do not view Chad's involvement in their affairs with contentment; it is strategically convenient not to antagonise Idriss Déby after he supported François Bozizé (in 2003) only to remove his support a decade later and after he supported Michel Djotodia's coup (in 2013) only to be the first one to demand his ousting practically a year later - when those leaders failed to understand that they must concatenate their national interests with those of Chad's (e.g. to control the continued activity of Chadian rebels - who are hiding in northern CAR after having participated in the 2008-2010 attacks in N'Djamena and Abeché).
Women in CAR are hopeful that Catherine Samba-Panza will do a good job because in their opinion "As a woman, she can understand the sufferings of the people, and as a mother, she will not tolerate all of this bloodletting," (Annette Ouango), "The men have done nothing but fight, (...) The men, they are fighting. But they are only destroying the country. This woman, she might be able to change things." (Judicaelle Mabongo, an 18-year-old student). Most African nations remain very sexist - even though many voices today (including that of former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano) call for gender equality and women empowerment - so it will be interesting to see how President Samba-Panza will deal with her political colleagues and serve as the unifying element in CAR.
Order must be restored to the Central African Republic. Operation Sangaris is proving itself to be harder than expected (unlike Operation Serval that presented more straightforward characteristics) inasmuch as inter-religious tensions have taken over the conflict: Christian militias decided to react to the Muslim criminal audacity (although the political world and the media, again to appease Muslim nations and shareholders, seem to forget this detail and now focus on the Anti-Balaka's actions only). In my view, Christian denominations should come together and send missionaries to talk to the militias and remind them of Christian values - of course, at first, they might hear that classical question "Where were you when Muslims started slaughtering our families?" however revenge needs to stop eventually.
Wishing President Samba-Panza success in her daunting task.
(We would like to thank Scott Morgan for his most valuable contribution)