C African Republic council to choose new leader
BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) -- Central African Republic began the process on Monday of choosing a new interim president who faces the enormous task of stemming anarchy and bloodshed as a top U.N. official urged the international community to keep the country from "crossing the tipping-point into an all-out sectarian conflict."
The National Transitional Council began meeting to select the interim leader from a field of eight candidates, including the current mayor of the capital Bangui and two sons of former presidents. Some people have protested the criteria used to winnow down the field. Candidates could not take part if they had participated in a militia or an armed rebellion in the past 20 years. In a country ravaged by coups and rebellions, that caveat excluded a number of would-be candidates.
Many hope the change in leadership will help pave the road to peace. Hundreds of people have been killed since Michel Djotodia stepped aside 10 days ago. He seized power in a coup last year.
As the council prepared to make its choice, the United Nations held a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva focused on the embattled country. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for "swift and concrete action to defuse the spiraling inter-communal anger and resentment that is becoming dangerously entrenched."
An African peacekeeping force has grown to 4,400 troops, with 3,200 of them remaining in the capital even as violence flares deep in the countryside. On Sunday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and its local partners reported burying 50 more bodies in the country's northwest over the weekend.
While the presence of some 1,600 French peacekeepers has prevented large-scale reprisal attacks, Pillay said the disarmament effort has left many Muslim civilians vulnerable to violence from the Christian militia known as the anti-Balaka.
"The mission received consistent, credible testimony and photographs supporting allegations that anti-Balaka mutilated Muslim men, women and children, before or after they were killed," she said.
The violence has forced more than 1 million people from their homes. Tens of thousands of migrants from neighboring African countries -- mostly Muslims -- have fled Central African Republic in the last month.
Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal.