'Massive' help needed to stabilise Central Africa: Interim leader

AFP , Monday 3 Mar 2014

There is no chance of bringing rapid stability to the Central African Republic without "massive" international support, the strife-torn country's interim president warned on Monday.

"I inherited a country on the verge of collapse, with rampant insecurity, a lack of state authority across its national territory and facing an unprecedented humanitarian disaster," Catherine Samba-Panza told a women's forum in Kinshasa.

"Faced with this challenge, I am determined we will carry through the transition process we have set ourselves," she said in the opening address to the French-speaking event.

"But without massive support and assistance from the international community... we will not meet our goal of stabilising the country and restoring constitutional order within the required timeframe," she warned.

Samba-Panza took office in January following the ouster of the country's first Muslim president Michel Djotodia, installed in a coup that touched off a year of inter-religious violence in the majority-Christian nation.

She is tasked with organising elections by mid-2015 at the latest.

Thousands have been killed and around a quarter of the country's 4.6 million people displaced, as 6,000 African and 2,000 French peacekeeping troops struggle to rein in the militias terrorising the population.

Samba-Panza has repeatedly called for a 10,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in addition to the 8,000 foreign boots already on the ground.

A UN official warned Sunday a Central African food crisis was looming with only a fifth of the $500 million (360 million euros) pledged by donors come in so far.

Speaking as the only woman president in francophone Africa, Samba-Panza said she was committed to giving women more say in public affairs.

"Only a woman can bring peace, national cohesion and bring together those that politics has torn apart," she told the forum to thunderous applause.

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