Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of Central African Republic’s capital Bangui and 2009 International Visitor Leadership Program alumna, has been selected as Transitional President to lead the country at a critical time in the nation’s history. Elected by the interim parliament among a field of eight candidates, she is the CAR’s first female president. Her exchange in the United States focused on conflict resolution with visits to diverse cities that have played a prominent role in the history of various civil rights movements: Montgomery and Huntsville, Alabama; San Diego, California; and New York City.
Born in Chad and educated as a lawyer in France, she has been active at various times on issues of women’s rights, democracy promotion, and peace building. Following a coup in 2003, she served as a senior member of National Council for Mediation working to promote peaceful dialogue and prevent conflict.
In her first address to the nation as president, she called for peace and reconciliation asking for the various militias to lay down their arms and encouraging “each and every [Central African] to help rebuild our fatherland.”