Thousands have taken to the streets in the Central African Republic (CAR) capital, Bangui, in celebration of the president's resignation. Lawmakers must now choose a new leader as they also work to stop deadly clashes.
A steady flow of jubilant residents filled the streets of Bangui on Friday afternoon following the official announcement that President Michel Djotodia had relinquished power. His prime minister, Nicolas Tiengaye, also resigned.
Locals expressed their joy to reporters in Bangui.
"It's a new day for Central African Republic," a 71-year-old woman, Jeanne, told Reuters news agency.
A younger woman - Carine Ggebe, 28 - told the Associated Press: "Finally, we are free! We are going to return home at last."
Sectarian violence has gripped the capital city since late November, when tensions between the Islamist Seleka rebel group and armed Christian groups reignited. The fighting has claimed over 1,000 lives across the country since early December and has displaced over one million people.
President Djotodia came under pressure from the international community after failing to take effective action to end the sectarian clashes.
Djotodia - CAR's first Muslim president - rose to power last March with the help of the Islamist Seleka rebel group, which had led a coup against the government. By the fall, Djotodia attempted to ban the rebel faction. The country experienced renewed violence after Christian groups began carrying out retaliatory attacks against Seleka militants.
France notes transition
France reaffirmed its political neutrality in CAR on Friday, where it has deployed 1,600 peacekeeping troops to work alongside the 4,000-strong African Union force.
"We take note of the resignation. It is up to the CNT to decide what happens now," said French Foreign Ministry spokesperson Romain Nadal, referring to CAR's 135-member transitional national assembly whose members are currently at an emergency summit in Chad.
"France does not interfere in any case with this process," Nadal added.
The CNT reportedly has 15 days to replace ex-President Djotodia.
Meanwhile, the European Union and the 10-nation Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) are due to discuss the conflict. While EU member states plan to vote on deploying more troops, the ECCAS is heading the emergency summit in neighboring Chad aimed at ending the conflict.
kms/hc (AP, Reuters, dpa)