Central African Republic’s Transitional National Council (TNC), in a very public election attended by foreign observers and members of the media, picked the woman currently serving as the mayor of the country’s capital as the next interim President. Bangui Mayor Catherine Samba-Panza now becomes the country’s first female president and its latest hope for helping to end the crisis in the country since the violent overthrow of President Francois Bozize by rebels last March. Samba-Panza received seventy-five votes from the TNC, significantly more than her nearest rival, Desire Kolingba, the son of former president Andre Kolingba, who received fifty-three votes. There is a hope that Samba-Panza, who had a successful private sector career before being appointed Mayor of Bangui last year, would provide a break from the country’s previous political establishment.
Whoever secured the TNC’s backing had their work cut out for them, with the last interim President and former rebel leader, Michel Djotodia having gone into exile and leaving the country in the midst of violence and uncertainty. French and African Union forces continue to try and help maintain law and order, and the US and others continue to help rush peacekeepers into the country to support the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA). The European Union has also announced that after significant lobbying by France it will be contributing its own peacekeeping force to the country, along with increased humanitarian aid. This will be the EU’s first land operation since 2008 when it deployed a force to the Chad-CAR border. In addition to fighting inside CAR, the upheaval has threatened neighboring countries, most notably Cameroon, where there were reports today of violence along the border. Codebook: Africa has previously pointed out the threat of spillover from CAR to Cameroon.
Cameroon has also been threatened by violence in neighboring South Sudan, where a crisis also continues. Fighting in the town of Malakal in Upper Nile state resulted in thirty-four people sheltering inside a facility operated by the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) being wounded by stray bullets. UNMISS says that it is sheltering over twenty-thousand individuals in Malakal and more than seventy-thousand in total at facilities across the country. The UN Security Council has approved the expansion of the UNMISS mission to help protect civilians from the violence. Fighting continues between the government and rebels, in spite of peace talks. Rebels were previously calling just for the release of those accused by the government of attempting a coup in December before starting negotiations, but are now also calling for Ugandan forces to leave the country.
Last week, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni admitted that forces from the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) were fighting alongside South Sudanese government forces against rebels and that some UPDF troops had died in operations there. Previously, President Museveni’s administration had said that UPDF troops were working to help evacuate civilians.