New Central Africa PM vows reconciliation despite rebel snub

The new prime minister of the Central African Republic on Monday vowed to reconcile a nation torn apart by ethnic and religious violence even as rebels refused to take part in his government.

AFP| Last Updated: Aug 12, 2014, 03:21 AM IST

Bangui: The new prime minister of the Central African Republic on Monday vowed to reconcile a nation torn apart by ethnic and religious violence even as rebels refused to take part in his government.

Mahamat Kamoun, who was named the country`s first Muslim premier yesterday, said his first priority was forming an "inclusive" government, then restoring security and tackling a devastating humanitarian crisis.

"You have questions of humanitarian need, humanitarian challenges that need to be addressed," he told his first press conference. "You also have national reconciliation. Improving the economy, and finally, preparing for elections," in 2015.

Months of fighting between mainly-Muslim Seleka rebels and mostly-Christian militias in the country has left thousands dead and forced around a million people from their homes.

But despite hopes that Kamoun`s appointment would appease rebels in the country, a spokesman for the Seleka rebels said they did not agree with the decision.
"We think the transitional president didn`t take account of the views of the Seleka, which still controls the major part of the country," Seleka spokesman Abou Mal Mal Hissene told AFP.

"The Seleka will not participate in the next government," he said, adding that the fragmented coalition of former rebels only learned of the appointment of a new prime minister "by way of foreign media".

The Seleka seized power in March 2013, toppling the ruling regime and putting Michel Djotodia -- the country`s first Muslim president -- in power.
Djotodia stepped down in January under strong international pressure for his failure to prevent rogue ex-rebels from carrying out atrocities against civilians in the capital Bangui and elsewhere.

Their actions led to the formation of "anti-balaka" (anti-machete) vigilante units to protect largely Christian communities. But the anti-balaka militias also committed serious crimes against humanity, according to rights groups.

Transitional President Catherine Samba Panza appointed Kamoun, 52, to lead a new broad-based government yesterday, with the new regime tasked with ending the chaos and overseeing a democratic transition in the deeply poor landlocked nation.

Kamoun is the first Muslim since independence from France in 1960 to hold high office in the deeply poor landlocked nation.