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New Central Africa president vows to ‘preserve peace’

(FILES) This file photo taken on January 5, 2013 shows Central African Republic's Prime Minister Faustin Archange Touadera taking part in a march for peace in Bangui.   The Central African Republic's new president is set to take office on March 30, 2016 faced with the challenge of reconciling a divided population and rebuilding a shattered country. Former maths teacher Faustin-Archange Touadera, 58, was the surprise winner of February elections in the country that had been wracked by three years of communal violence. / AFP / SIA KAMBOU

(FILES) This file photo taken on January 5, 2013 shows Central African Republic’s Prime Minister Faustin Archange Touadera taking part in a march for peace in Bangui.<br />The Central African Republic’s new president is set to take office on March 30, 2016 faced with the challenge of reconciling a divided population and rebuilding a shattered country. Former maths teacher Faustin-Archange Touadera, 58, was the surprise winner of February elections in the country that had been wracked by three years of communal violence. / AFP / SIA KAMBOU

Former maths teacher Faustin-Archange Touadera on Wednesday pledged to “preserve peace” as he was sworn in as president of the Central African Republic after polls aimed at restoring stability in the conflict-ridden country.

Touadera, 58, was the surprise winner of February’s run-off election, which was held after three years of inter-communal violence between Muslim and Christian militias that left thousands dead and displaced more than 400,000.

“I pledge to wholly respect the constitution … and preserve peace,” he said, also promising to “carry out my duties without any ethnic bias.”

The ceremony was held at the main stadium in the capital Bangui, which has a capacity of 20,000, and was attended by leaders from nearby countries, including President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and Denis Sassou Ngeusso from the Republic of Congo.

It marks the last stage of the political transition that began after the toppling of Christian former president Francois Bozize in 2013 by a rebellion of the predominantly Muslim Seleka militia, which sparked a backlash from a rival Christian-dominated militia.

The elections came after 93 percent of voters backed a constitutional referendum that cleared the way for the vote and also followed Pope Francis’ groundbreaking trip in November, his first to a war zone, during which he made an impassioned plea for peace and reconciliation.



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