CAR Appoints New Prime Minister as Clashes ContinueAugust 11, 2014 in Central Africa Republic
On Sunday, just days after the Central African Republic’s interim government resigned, the country’s president, Catherine Samba Panza, named her new prime minister. The mainly Muslim rebel Seleka group however has rejected the appointment of the CAR’s first Muslim prime minister, stating that it wants no part of the new government.
Mahamat Kamoun was appointed prime minister Sunday evening, effectively replacing Andre Nzapayeke, who stepped down last week. Mr. Kamoun, an expert in finance, was the director general of the treasury under former president Francois Bozize. He later became a special advisor to the current interim president. While he has now been tasked with leading a transitional government that is seeking to implement a precarious ceasefire signed late last month, officials within the Seleka rebel group have rejected the decision, stating Monday that while Mr Kamoun had served as head of the tax-collecting agency, he was not a Seleka member. Abou Mal Mal Hissene, a Seleka spokesman, disclosed Monday that the group’s leaders “…think the transitional president didn’t take account of the views of the Seleka, which still controls the majority part of the country,” adding “the Seleka will not participate in the government.” The spokesman also reported that the fragmented collation of former rebels had learned of the appointment of a new prime minister “by way of foreign media.” Despite refusing to join the new government, the spokesman did note that the Seleka leaders remain committed to the peace accord, which was signed in Brazzaville last month.
On Tuesday, President Samba Panza confirmed that the government had resigned as part of a peace deal that was reached last month with the Christian and Muslim rebel factions. The resignation of the interim government, which includes Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke along with twenty other ministers, will make way for a new one that is more inclusive.
Mr. Kamoun, who is the first Muslim to serve as prime minister in the CAR since the country gained its independence from France in 1960, will now face the difficult task of revitalising a delicate political transition that is aimed at ending deadly sectarian violence and disarming militias. Despite the appointment and the promise of a more inclusive government, many hurdles remain on the CAR’s path to peace. The inclusion of armed groups within the future government remains to be a sensitive topic in on-going discussions. There are however signs that Mr Kamoun’s appointment may aid in reducing tensions.
While Seleka rebels continue to clash with anti-balaka forces, the Seleka coalition itself is weak and fragmented as its members are divided between those who support dialogue and those who refuse to make any concessions and instead call for a partition of the country. This appointment may ease the tensions between the government and former Seleka coalition members, and will likely undercut support for those pushing for a partition. Furthermore, Mr Kamoun’s appointment is likely to reassure the Muslim minority community, many of whom have been treated with suspicion by the country’s Christian population following the Seleka takeover in March 2013. While the interim president’s promises of a more inclusive government appear to be coming true, this has yet had an impact on the current situation throughout the country as tensions on the ground have not eased and the ceasefire signed in Brazzaville remains extremely fragile.
After weeks of relative calm in the capital Bangui, clashes erupted on Friday and Saturday between two rival factions of the anti-balaka militia. International peacekeepers deployed throughout the CAR were forced to intervene. The latest confrontations, which occurred in the Boy-Rabe neighbourhood in northern Bangui, came just two days after dozens of Seleka fighters attacked French peacekeepers who were patrolling the northern town of Batangafo. Two French troops were injured in the clashes.