Central African Republic appoints first Muslim prime minister

World News -

An overthrow of Christian president Francois Bozize in 2012 by Muslim Seleka rebels spurred sectarian violence and leadership changes in Central African Republic (CAR).

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Copyright 2014 Reuters
Copyright 2014 Reuters

Christian President Catherine Samba-Panza signed a decree on Aug. 10 naming Mahamat Kamoun as CAR's first ever Muslim prime minister. U.S.-educated Kamoun, 53, is a former aid to Samba-Panza, as well as to former president Michael Djotodia.

"We think the transitional president didn't take account of the views of the Seleka, which still controls the major part of the country… The Seleka will not participate in the next government." Abou Mal Mal Hissene, Seleka spokesman

The former rebels said Aug. 11 that they wouldn't support the government under the new prime minister. The group's spokesman said they found out about his appointment "by way of foreign media."

On Sept. 11, President Obama alerted Congress that he sent 20 U.S. military personnel to CAR to work towards reopening the American Embassy. Security concerns lead to its closure in 2012. The force will remain until traditional embassy security can take over. Obama did not state when that might be.

The UN took over peacekeeping efforts in CAR Sept. 15, but is only deploying about 65% of the troops authorized by the UN Security Council. Amnesty International warned that in order to properly defend civilians, forces needed to be at full capacity, which is not expected until early 2015.

The crisis in the Central African Republic began in late 2012, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels launched attacks that eventually overthrew Christian president Francois Bozize, installing Michel Djotodia (pictured). Djotodia resigned in Jan. 2014 amid a conflict in which both Christians and Muslims have committed violence. Copyright 2014 Reuters

The crisis in the Central African Republic began in late 2012, when predominantly Muslim Seleka rebels launched attacks that eventually overthrew Christian president Francois Bozize, installing Michel Djotodia (pictured). Djotodia resigned in Jan. 2014 amid a conflict in which both Christians and Muslims have committed violence.

Catherine Samba-Panza on Jan. 20 was elected by the transitional parliament as the interim president of Central African Republic. Samba-Panza, a Christian, was previously the mayor of the country's capital of Bangui. Copyright 2014 Reuters

Catherine Samba-Panza on Jan. 20 was elected by the transitional parliament as the interim president of Central African Republic. Samba-Panza, a Christian, was previously the mayor of the country's capital of Bangui.

While both Muslim and Christian fighters have committed war atrocities, the ongoing CAR conflict doesn't appear to involve genocide or ethnic cleansing, according to a UN report. The report goes against comments made in Feb. by the UN refugees chief that "ethnic-religious cleansing" was a danger in CAR.

The UN estimated as of July 15 that around 103,000 people were internally displaced by violence and some 383,000 people had fled to neighboring countries. Nearly all of CAR's 4.4 million people need some form of humanitarian aid, and thousands have died from the conflict since March 2013. Copyright 2014 Reuters

The UN estimated as of July 15 that around 103,000 people were internally displaced by violence and some 383,000 people had fled to neighboring countries. Nearly all of CAR's 4.4 million people need some form of humanitarian aid, and thousands have died from the conflict since March 2013.

In April, The UN voted to create a CAR peacekeeping force called MINUSCA comprised of up to 10,000 troops and 1,800 police. Many of the troops were "re-hatted" from African Union forces. The UN also launched a drive -- separate from a Feb. $547 million appeal-- to collect $274 million to aid refugees.

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