Central African Republic's president vows peace, reforms at inauguration

Presidential candidate Faustin-Archange Touadera looks on at the start of a a live television debate against Anicet-Georges Dologuele ahead of Sunday's second round election, in Bangui, Central African Republic, in this February 12, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola/Files

BANGUI (Reuters) - Central African Republic’s newly elected president, Faustin-Archange Touadera, said at his inauguration on Wednesday that he would focus on building peace and enacting reforms to end years of violent turmoil in the impoverished, landlocked nation.

A former prime minister, Touadera won a presidential run-off last month in what was widely seen as a step towards reconciliation after years of violent turmoil.

But huge challenges remain in Central African Republic, (CAR), one of the world’s most unstable countries, which is divided along ethnic and religious lines and is largely still controlled by warlords.

Touadera said he aimed to disarm the country’s rival factions, reform the armed forces and boost the agriculture sector.

“I will make sure to quickly apply the Disarmament, Demobilization, Rehabilitation and Reintegration program,” he said in his inauguration speech.

“We’re going to make CAR a united country, a country of peace, a country facing development.”

In one bright spot, the country’s economy grew by 4.9 percent last year, the biggest growth in 16 years, as it began to emerge from years of conflict. In 2013 it had contracted by 37 percent.

CAR, a former French colony, suffered the worst crisis in its history in early 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka fighters toppled president Francois Bozize.

Christian militias responded to Seleka abuses by attacking the Muslim minority. A fifth of the population fled their homes to escape the violence.

Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette; Writing by Edward McAllister; Editing by Gareth Jones