Woman Chosen to Lead Central African Republic Out of Mayhem

Cheers broke out in the National Assembly building here on Monday as representatives chose the mayor of this beleaguered capital to serve as the interim president of the Central African Republic, a country in the grip of a sectarian civil war.

Catherine Samba-Panza, 58, will be the first woman to lead the nation, and she will probably serve for a little over a year, with the goal of leading it to national elections. Her appointment came from an unusual assortment of unelected rebel sympathizers, politicians, artists and others who have filled in as a substitute parliament for a nation so fractured that it has suffered a total breakdown of the state in recent months.


Ms. Samba-Panza defeated seven other candidates, including the sons of two former presidents and a man whose claim to hold degrees that no other Central Africans possess drew hoots of derision in the assembly chamber on Monday. She was elected in a five-hour process involving two separate hand counts and the double reading-out of all 120-odd members of the assembly.


Ms. Samba-Panza, an insurance broker who led state-sponsored reconciliation efforts after a previous civil war, was said by supporters to be untainted by the nine-month reign of terror unleashed under the man she replaced, Michel Djotodia.