New President, Same Political Crisis
BMI View: The appointment of a new transitional president in the Central African Republic is a positive sign, but it does not mark the end of a political and social crisis which has been described by UN officials as pre-genocidal. President Catherine Samba Panza takes the helm of a state which has effectively ceased to exist and faces the daunting challenge of reconciling a nation wracked by sectarian violence.
January 20 saw a brief show of unity from bitterly divided political elites in the Central African Republic (CAR) as politicians from all communities welcomed the appointment of Catherine Samba Panza as the country's new transitional president. Ms. Samba Panza replaces Michel Djotodia, whose failure to consolidate power following a December 2012 rebellion is widely blamed for precipitating the CAR's descent into anarchy and sectarian violence. The mayor of Bangui and a respected businesswoman, the new president is widely seen as a politically neutral mediator.
While BMI believes that Samba Panza will likely be an improvement compared to her divisive predecessor, we stress that the implosion of the CAR's always weak state institutions means a change of leadership will have little immediate effect. An improvement in the security situation will be largely dependent on the ability of French and African peacekeepers to restore order and prevent a wave of tit-for-tat revenge killings. BMI predicts that violence will continue over a multi-month time horizon, and sees little reason to believe that the structural weaknesses that make the CAR prone to periodic political and institutional crises are likely to be addressed.
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