Central African Republic politicians have shortlisted eight candidates, including two sons of former leaders, to run for interim president and pull the country out of months of turmoil and sectarian violence.
Whoever is chosen from the shortlist, announced on Monday, will face the challenge of ending a cycle of violence that on Sunday saw crowds kill two men they said were Muslims and drag their bodies through the streets of the capital Bangui, then set them on fire.
The Red Cross also said it had buried around 50 bodies within the past 48 hours after fighting flared in the northwest.
The landlocked former French colony descended into chaos in March after a mostly Muslim rebel coalition, Seleka, marched into the capital, unleashing a wave of killings and looting.
That triggered revenge attacks by Christian militia known as “anti-balaka”.
Seleka and the anti-balaka groups have continued to launch sporadic tit-for-tat killings, despite the presence of 1,600 French troops and nearly 5,000 African Union peacekeepers.
A senior UN official warned last week the conflict could descend into genocide.
Members of the transitional assembly were expected to select one of the candidates as interim president on Monday after former Seleka leader Michel Djotodia resigned as president under international pressure over his failure to end the bloodshed.
Celebrations quickly turned to more violence as his withdrawal created antagonism between his predominantly Muslim supporters and Christian armed groups.
Assembly vice president Lea Koyassoum Doumta said the eight included Bangui mayor Catherine Samba-Panza; Desire Kolingba, son of former President Andre Kolingba; and businessman Sylvain Patasse, son of ex-president Ange-Felix Patasse.
To qualify, the candidates had to show they had no link to Seleka, or the forces behind the “anti-balaka” militia.
But many have had first hand experience of the nation’s political turmoil, particularly the former presidents’ sons.
European Union foreign ministers were expected to agree on Monday to send up to 1,000 soldiers to help stabilise the country, which is still in the grips of sectarian violence.
It comes after a Christian mob lynched to Muslims in Bangui on Sunday after hearing reports a taxi driver had been kidnapped by Seleka gunmen, residents said.
The remains of one of the men was stoned and stabbed, said witnesses.
Central African Republic is supposed to hold elections by February 2015, according to the terms of regionally brokered peace plans that set up the governing National Transitional Council in March last year.