THE Christian mayor of Bangui, Catherine Samba-Panza, was
appointed interim President of the Central African Republic (CAR)
on Monday. The announcement comes at a time of fresh violence
against Muslims by so-called "anti-balaka" (anti-machete) Christian
self-defence groups, and threats of food shortages.
Members of an interim parliament elected Ms Samba-Panza after
the resignation of the leader of the Seleka coalition of rebels,
Michel Djotodia, on 10 January (News, 17 January). The new
President must restore state administration and organise national
elections before the end of the year.
The EU responded to Ms Samba-Panza's call for help from the
international community when ministers agreed in a meeting on
Monday to send 1000 troops to the CAR. These soldiers will support
1600 French troops already in the former French colony.
Peacekeepers struggled to contain sectarian violence in the
capital on Friday, however, as a Christian mob killed and burned
two Muslims in the street.
An attack on a convey of Muslims fleeing the violence in the
remote north-west of the country left 22 dead on Friday, including
three children. A rocket grenade, as well as machetes, clubs, and
guns, were used to attack the refugees.
The director of Save the Children in the CAR, Robert Lakenau,
said that the attack showed that African and French peacekeepers
were not able to stem violence in isolated areas. He believed that
much of the violence in remote parts of the country was going
unreported. "An incident of this magnitude has only come to the
forefront because of our internal contacts at the hospital. Maybe a
lot of these stories are not being reported," he said.
The United Nations World Food Programme announced on Monday that
food for homeless people in the CAR was running out. Thirty-eight
trucks carrying rice are stuck at the Cameroon border as drivers
refuse to cross, fearing attacks. The agency was now considering
airlifting food into Bangui, where more than 500,000 people are
believed to be homeless.
More than 1000 people have died in the country since December,
and one million have been displaced from their homes since Mr
Djotodia seized power in March 2013.
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, spoke before the House of
Lords on Thursday of last week, voicing a growing concern that the
scale of the situation in the CAR could turn into genocide.
"I hope the Minister can give us some comfort by confirming that
the Government are talking to our European allies to ensure that
whatever is needed is provided," Dr Sentamu said. "Otherwise, we
will end up with genocide, and pictures on our television screens
that will make all our stomachs churn day by day."