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Catherine Samba-Panza: Ending conflict in CAR

The president of Central African Republic says the real reasons for the violence need to be addressed to bring peace.

Last updated: 16 Feb 2014 14:23
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Ethnic cleansing, genocide - some of the words applied to the ongoing violence in the Central African Republic (CAR).

CAR is a poverty stricken country at the epicentre of continental instability, surrounded as it is by Sudan, South Sudan, the DR Congo, the Congo, Chad and Cameroon.

Hundreds of people have been killed and tens of thousands driven from their homes in what on the face of it is a political struggle that has assumed strongly religious overtones.

The international community and international media focus specifically on the religious dimension of the conflict in CAR. We look at the real sources of the conflict ... Bad governance, poverty and unequal access to power that led to frustration among some of the sons of this country.

Catherine Samba-Panza, the president of CAR

On the one side of the conflict is the predominantly Muslim Seleka group, which was part of a rebellion that ended in a peace deal a year ago. On the other side is the Christian anti-Balaka militia that seized back control of large parts of the country following the collapse of the peace agreement.

Christians comprise some 50 percent of the population, while Muslims make up only 15 percent.

In the middle of the warring parties is the country’s new President Catherine Samba-Panza, the former mayor of the capital Bangui, who less than a month ago was asked to form a transitional power sharing government.

"There have never been problems of a religious nature in CAR," President Samba-Panza tells Al Jazeera. 

"The international community and international media focus specifically on the religious dimension of the conflict in CAR. We look at the real sources of the conflict. They are not religious, they are different. Bad governance, poverty and unequal access to power that led to frustration among some of the sons of this country," she says.

Only the third woman president in Africa, she is regarded as a neutral by most parties in the conflict, and has the full backing of the United Nations, the African Union and France.

There are at present 4.600 African peacekeeping troops in place, along with 1,500 French soldiers - numbers that she insists are woefully insufficient to separate the warring sides.

"Clearly these troops aren’t enough to bring back peace in Bangui; or the country," she says.

"We believe that the troops on the ground need to be reinforced. Not only with CAR national defence and security forces but also with the help of the UN through peace keeping operations." 

This week, Catherine Samba-Panza paid her first state visit to the neighbouring Republic of Congo - and after a meeting with President Denis Sassou N’Guesso in Brazzaville sat down to talk to Al Jazeera about the conflict, and what is needed to end it.

Talk to Al Jazeera  can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0430 and 1930; Sunday: 1930; Monday: 1430 .   

 Watch more  Talk to Al Jazeera 

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Al Jazeera
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