A Women’s Touch?

Catherine Samba-Panza’s position as the first female President of the Central African Republic (CAR) is a ray of hope for the country. As a woman, Samba-Panza’s gender is viewed as having a positive impact over the reconciliation process in the CAR.  Will it be possible for her to follow in the footsteps of President Sirleaf in ensuring that violent crimes against women are actually punished?

While many are hopeful, they express doubt in the longevity of Samba Panza’s impact on peace in the same breath. Their doubt is hinged on the presumed lack of continued international support. Although the longevity of international interest is rather important to the CAR attracting and retaining international donors to support its economic system, another issue has been overlooked: her short tenure as president.

When Samba-Panza was sworn in as “interim” president on January 23, 2014, there was an excitement around the world for change in the CAR. It seems that no one paid attention to the word “interim”.  As interim president, Samba-Panza’s term will only last a year, with elections to be held in February 2015.  As interim president, she is not allowed to run for office after the February 2015 elections. This begs the question: with a term only lasting one year, what real changes or reconciliation can President Samba-Panza bring about?  From an American perspective, it usually takes a sitting president at least one four-year term to implement change in a country.  American presidents even experience a period during their term in office known as the “lame duck” years, where their general effectiveness is stalled because they are on their way out.  With this perspective, it seems that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for Samba-Panza to turn a country around that has not experienced real stability since it became independent from its colonial power– France in 1960. Not only will Samba-Panza need international support, but she will also need time. Continue reading