Central African PM names new government

Agence France-Presse

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Andre Nzapayeke's transitional government faces the daunting task of ending the bloodshed

BANGUI, Central African Republic – Central Africa’s prime minister on Monday, January 27, appointed a new government to pull the deeply divided country out of crisis, incorporating both Christian militias and supporters of the mainly Muslim Seleka rebellion.

Andre Nzapayeke’s transitional government faces the daunting task of ending the bloodshed, restoring the operations of a state whose coffers are empty and whose employees have gone months without pay, and organizing general elections by February 2015.

It comprises 20 ministers, seven of them women, and includes several members of the administration of former president Michel Djotodia.

The prime minister, who was only appointed on Saturday, January 25, made the announcement as hundreds of former Seleka fighters left the capital Bangui under military escort after days of clashes between Christian and Muslim civilians.

Violence between the Christian majority and Muslim minority first erupted after the Seleka rebels overthrew the government in March last year and installed its leader, Djotodia, as president.

Djotodia failed to rein in a wave of killing, raping and looting by his former fighters, leading to the emergence of Christian vigilante groups known as “anti-balaka” (anti-machete) that are accused of committing atrocities of their own against Muslims, including civilian massacres.

The violence has triggered international concern, and on Tuesday the UN Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution imposing sanctions against those responsible.

The UN Security Council measure will target “individuals who harm peace and stability and hinder the process of political transition in the Central African Republic by fueling violence” and violating human rights, foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said in Paris.

The draft resolution, sponsored by France, was announced after further clashes Sunday, January 26, in the CAR capital, despite last week’s election of interim President Catherine Samba Panza by the transitional parliament in the former French colony.

Washington is also weighing “targeted” CAR sanctions against “those who further destabilize the situation or pursue their own selfish ends by abetting or encouraging the violence”, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced Sunday.

In an effort to ease the tensions in the capital, African peacekeepers operating under a UN mandate on Monday evacuated hundreds of former Seleka from two camps in Bangui, among them senior rebel leaders.

Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, said one of the convoys carrying men from the Seleka coalition drove out of Bangui on Sunday with a large armed escort from MISCA, an African Union force of 5,200 men backed by 1,600 French troops.

Bouckaert said the Seleka’s former head of information, Mahamat Baher, was among those who left the capital headed north in the direction of Bossembele.

The evacuation continued on Monday with several hundred former Seleka fighters leaving two major military camps they had occupied in the south of Bangui.

Residents of the capital sheltered in the Kasai camp, one of the largest of several housing some 400,000 displaced people in all, said that the ex-Seleka forces who were there on Sunday had “fled with their weapons, deserting the place.”

UN says situation ‘deteriorating’

French soldiers of Operation Sangaris, which supports MISCA, had entered the Kasai camp on Saturday morning, January 25, to register fighters who took refuge there from December 5, when France went into military action in its coup-prone former colony.

The departure of Seleka forces from the capital has roused fears in the Muslim community of attacks by Christians in the “anti-balaka” militias known for atrocities against civilians and hostility to the authorities.

Easing tensions between Muslim and Christian communities is considered a priority by religious leaders and by the new president.

Samba Panza was sworn in last Thursday, a day after the United Nations issued a further warning that the inter-religious clashes – unprecedented in the CAR – could be a prelude to genocide.

Samba Panza took over from Djotodia after he was forced out by his regional African peers on January 10 for failing to halt atrocities by the rebels and brutal reprisals by Christian vigilante groups.

Clashes and atrocities against civilians, including women and children, have displaced about a quarter of the population of 4.6 million, while the UN estimates that more than two million people need urgent humanitarian aid.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay warned Monday that the security and human rights situation had “further deteriorated over the past few days”, with Muslim civilians now extremely vulnerable.

“We simply cannot let the social fabric of this country be torn apart,” Pillay said in a statement, calling on the international community to strengthen peacekeeping efforts.

International donors on January 20 pledged $500 million (366 million euros) for the CAR this year, while the World Bank last Thursday said it would provide $100 million to help restore crippled government services as well as to pay for humanitarian help. – Rappler.com

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