11 August 2014

Central African Republic: New Premier Kamoun - 'We Must All Work for Peace'

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 strife-torn Central African Republic now has a Muslim prime minister - for the first time since it gained independence from France in 1960. The challenges he faces are formidable.

Mahamat Kamoun's appointment as the first Muslim prime minister of the Central African Republic is seen as a bid to try and end the sectarian unrest that has plagued the country for more than a year.

Kamoun, 53, will head a transitional government which will seek to implement a precarious ceasefire between the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition and the predominantly Christian anti-balaka militia. The deal was signed in Brazzaville, Congo Republic in July 2014.

Kamoun told DW's French for Africa service that he wanted an inclusive government "composed of all the vital forces of the nation" that were involved in the Brazzaville peace talks.

"We will also make sure to take equal representation into consideration," he added.

Asked if being a Muslim would be an asset in his new post, Kamoun said "I don't want to put myself in that box too much, because the religious aspect didn't play a role in my nomination as prime minister. I think what people need today is someone around whom they can rally."

Reconciling a divided nation

Kamoun is not formally a member of the Muslim Seleka. An economist and former finance ministry official, he served as the head of the cabinet of President Michel Djotodia, who governed the country for ten months after Seleka seized power in March 2013. He was also a special advisor to current interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, who appointed him as prime minister.

Kamoun replaces Andre Nzapayeke. He resigned last Tuesday (05.08.2014) specifically to permit the formation of a more inclusive government.

The resignation of Nzapayeke and his government was part of the Brazzaville ceasefire deal.

"We must all work towards reuniting the Central African Republic and bringing the people together and restoring peace to the country," Kamoun told DW.

Yet despite the arrival of a new prime minister, the Central African Republic's path to peace remains challenging. On Monday (11.08.2014) Seleka rebels distanced themselves from the new government. The inclusion of the armed groups in a future administration is likely to be a sticking point.

Seleka and anti-balaka forces both stand accused of serious abuses, and are considered to be the main cause of the current crisis in which thousands have died and around a quarter of the Central African Republic's population of 4.5 million have been displaced.

AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa

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