New CAR president vows to preserve peace

Faustin-Archange Touadera

Faustin-Archange Touadera

Central African Republic (CAR)’s new president, Faustin-Archange Touadera, yesterday pledged to “preserve peace” as he was sworn in following polls aimed at restoring stability in the wake of three years of turmoil.

The 58-year-old former Mathematics teacher was the surprise winner of February’s presidential election – the first since the outbreak of a wave of inter-communal violence between Muslim and Christian militias that has killed thousands of people since 2013.

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

He also pledged to “revamp the army into an apolitical and secular force” and launched an appeal for “national reconciliation”.

The swearing-in ceremony at the main stadium in the capital, Bangui, was attended by regional leaders, including President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and Denis Sassou Nguesso from the Republic of Congo, as well as the foreign and defence ministers of former colonial ruler France.

It marks the last stage of the political transition that began with the overthrow in 2013 of Christian former president Francois Bozize by the predominantly Muslim “Seleka” rebel alliance.

The crowds at the ceremony included 29-year-old engineer Igor Ali who said the day was a “great event, which will allow us to finally bury the past.”

Nadege, a shopkeeper who lives with her six children in a camp in Bangui for displaced people, added: “I want Touadera to disarm the militia. We have suffered too much.”

After Bozize’s ouster, the former rebels ran amok, sacking villages in a wave of bloodletting that sparked fierce retaliatory attacks on minority Muslims by Christian-dominated militia.

In November, Pope Francis visited the country, on his first trip to a war zone, during which he made an impassioned plea for peace and reconciliation.

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