Voice of America (Washington, DC)

10 August 2014

Central African Republic Gets First Muslim PM

Photo: HDPT Central African Republic
A member of the self-defense group carrying his traditional rifle in a flower field, around the village of Sambaye, 10 km west of Bozoum, Ouaham Pende Prefecture, northwest CAR, 28 June 2008. Local militias recruit among the villagers on a voluntary basis -- women can also be members. UNICEF advocates to communities to prevent the use of children in their ranks.

The Central African Republic has its first Muslim prime minister.

Mahamat Kamoun, a former special adviser to interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, will lead a transitional government that is seeking to implement a cease-fire signed last month after a year of sectarian violence.

The 53-year-old Kamoun is the first Muslim to serve as prime minister in the CAR since it gained independence from France in 1960. He was director general of the treasury under former president Francois Bozize.

Together with Samba-Panza, who is a Christian, Kamoun faces the difficult task of implementing a delicate political transition aimed at ending the deadly sectarian violence.

The latest unrest began in March 2013, when the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition toppled the government and put Michel Djotodia - the country's first Muslim president - in power. He stepped down in January under strong international pressure for his failure to rein in rogue ex-rebels involved in murder, rape and looting.

In response to the violence, largely Christian communities formed "anti-balaka" vigilante forces who hunted down Muslims in revenge attacks.

Thousands died and around a quarter of the country's 4.5 million population were displaced in the conflict.

Representatives of the Seleka coalition and anti-balaka forces signed a tentative cease-fire at talks in neighboring Congo in July. Following the talks, the government of Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke resigned in a government reshuffle.

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InFocus

CAR Gets First Muslim Prime Minister

A member of the self-defense group carrying his traditional rifle in a flower field, around the village of Sambaye, 10 km west of Bozoum, Ouaham Pende Prefecture, northwest CAR, 28 June 2008. Local militias recruit among the villagers on a voluntary basis -- women can also be members. UNICEF advocates to communities to prevent the use of children in their ranks.

Central African Republic's President Catherine Samba Panza has appointed Mahamat Kamoun as her prime minister as part of an effort to create a more unified government. Read more »