Central African Republic rebel leader Michel Djotodia has been sworn in as interim president of the violence-plagued nation, five months after seizing power in a coup.
Djotodia took the oath of office at a ceremony in the capital, Bangui, Sunday. His Séléka rebel alliance came to power in March when it ousted the government of Francois Bozizé, leader of the African nation since an earlier coup in 2003.
In a swearing-in address, Djotodia called for national unity as a transitional council he created tries to prepare the Central African Republic for a presidential election in 18 months.
Djotodia has received international recognition for committing to a political transition process. But he faces a major challenge in stabilizing the country, whose 4.6 million people have endured a worsening humanitarian crisis in recent months.
U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told the U.N. Security Council last week that the Central African Republic risks becoming a "failed state" without urgent international intervention.
U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović visited the country in late July and early August and reported serious human rights violations. He said those include executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, sexual violence, the recruitment of child soldiers and the looting and destruction of schools, hospitals and U.N. premises.
Šimonović said security has improved in Bangui since March, but state authority is almost non-existent in the rest of the country. He said that authority has been replaced by unpaid Séléka fighters who support themselves through extortion and looting, leading to an environment of rampant fear.