After years of crisis and political violence, the Republic of Central Africa began the first phase of its transition to democratic civilian governance by electing Catherine Samba-Panza to act as an interim President. A study of the political history of the country showed that Samba-Panza is the first female to become the president of the country.
Who is Catherine Samba-Panza?
The 59-year-old former Bangui mayor was born on June 26, 1954 in Fort Lamy, Chad to a Cameroonian father while her mother was from CAR.
She studied law in France where two of her three children still live. Before getting into politics, she worked as a corporate lawyer. She was also active in a women’s rights organisation.
Ms. Samba-Panza succeeds CAR’s first Muslim leader Michel Djotodia, who resigned on January 10 after being put under pressure by regional leaders and the former colonial power, France, over his failure to curb the conflict.
She is a Christian but the successful businesswoman is seen as politically neutral. Samba-Panza was the Chairwoman of the National Dialogue in 2003 which was established to address conflict in the region.
She was appointed mayor of Bangui by the National Transitional Council during the 2012 -2013 conflict.
Her appointment was accepted by both sides in the conflict as she was viewed as politically neutral.
How she emerged
She emerged after the former president, François Bozize, was pressurised to step down by the international community amid violent clashes between Muslim and Christian groups.
She was elected as the top candidate amongst seven contenders in a vote by the transitional parliament on Monday. Samba-Panza won 75 votes in the run-off, against 53 for Mr. Kolingba, the son of a former president.
The election went to a second round after Ms. Samba-Panza failed to secure an outright majority in the first round. Six other candidates were knocked out in the first round. Among them were two women and two sons of former presidents.
They all had to meet the stringent requirements set by the National Transitional Council. All those who had held political offices under previous interim president, Michel Djotodia, as well as all party leaders and active members of the military were not allowed to run for the presidency. Also among those excluded from the top job were members of militia groups.
About 129 members of the 135-seat council took part in the secret ballot, AFP reports. (101)