Government formed in Central African Republic

2013-04-01 09:09

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Bangui – The Central African Republic’s (CAR’s) prime minister has named mostly rebels and opposition figures to his new post-coup government, as reports emerged of child soldiers killed in the fight for the capital.

Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye – who has been allowed to keep his post by new strongman Michel Djotodia, whose rebels seized the capital a week ago – named a 34-member Cabinet yesterday that includes nine ministers from the Seleka rebel coalition.

The new government, named in a decree read on national radio, also includes eight ministers from the former opposition and one close to ousted president Francois Bozize.

Rebel leader Djotodia, who named himself president after ousting Bozize last Sunday, added the post of defence minister to his job titles.

The petroleum, security, water and forestry, and communications ministries also went to Seleka members.

Djotodia’s rebels launched a rapid-fire assault on the capital, Bangui, last weekend to oust Bozize after the collapse of a January peace deal.

After days of looting and chaos, rebel soldiers have largely secured the city with the aid of a regional African force.

But troubling reports of child soldiers being killed in the battle for Bangui were published yesterday in South Africa, which had sent troops to the CAR in a failed effort to stabilise the country before Bozize’s fall.

City Press reported yesterday that the South African troops were running out of ammunition, according to a source close to the military’s controversial CAR deployment. A soldier also said many of the rebels were “only children”.

“The rebels stormed our soldiers in groups, not at all like trained soldiers, and many of them were only children,” the source revealed.

“It was only after the firing had stopped that we saw we had killed kids,” a paratrooper who took part in the fighting told national weekly, the Sunday Times.

“We did not come here for this... to kill kids. It makes you sick. They were crying calling for help ... calling for (their) moms.”

The South African army declined to comment on the reports.

About 200 South African troops fought against some 3 000 rebels during the battle for Bangui, which lasted several hours.

In what has turned out to be South Africa’s heaviest military loss since apartheid, 13 soldiers were killed in the fighting.

South Africa’s government is facing increasing calls at home for a probe into why President Jacob Zuma sent troops to the CAR.

Seleka, a coalition of three rebel groups, launched its insurgency in December, accusing Bozize of failing to honour earlier peace deals signed with rebels in the conflict-prone country.

They quickly came within striking distance of Bangui, forcing Bozize into signing the January deal, which created a power-sharing government with Tiangaye as prime minister.

But the rebels claimed Bozize was not respecting the deal and renewed their assault.

The coup was welcomed by many in a city tired of Bozize’s unfulfilled promises to rebuild the nation by harnessing its stores of oil, gold and uranium.

But fear quickly set in as swarms of armed men and gangs of looters roamed the city in the wake of the coup.

Djotodia vowed on Saturday to hand over power at the end of a three-year transition and not contest elections in 2016.

The latest in a long line of coup leaders, he said the rebels had come to power not through “political ambition but through national duty”.

“I hope to be the last rebel chief president of Central Africa,” he told a crowd of supporters.

Since independence from France in 1960, the country has had a slew of coups and strongmen.

Religious tensions have risen in the largely Christian country since Djotodia, a Muslim, became president. Bozize often accused the rebel chief’s followers of being fundamentalists.

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