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Africa

CAR's President Touadera unveils cabinet

President of the Central African Republic, Faustin Touadera, has appointed both political allies and former rivals to a new government as the country struggles to return to normalcy after years of sectarian bloodshed.

The new Prime Minister Simplice Sarandji is the president's former campaign manager: Three ministers are former candidates from the first round of the presidential elections. Another six held posts under former president Francois Bozize and further three are from the minority Muslim community.

All in all, this new cabinet has twenty three members. Paul Melly, Associate Fellow with the African Program at Chatham House in the UK has been speaking to DW's Mark Caldwell.

DW: Can this new cabinet drive the reconciliation process forward?

Paul Melly: I think it probably can. The composition of the cabinet is pretty much what one would expect actually for a country using the CAR's electoral system. That is to say a two-round system of election where in the first ballot you get people who don't have much prospect of being elected president, running as candidate anyway to win a few percent of the vote and then, as it were, begging for a role in the eventual government that is formed by the actual winner.

Paul Melly Copyright: private

Paul Melly: Associate Fellow at Chatham House

The other key point is that there are three Muslim ministers in the government. This is very important because Mr. Touadera enjoyed quite a lot of support from people who had supported the Anti-Balaka Christian militia or at least been a bit sympathetic towards them during the conflict of the last two years.

And Mr. Touadera sent out a message of reconciliation that it was very important and was actually reflected in the composition of the government and he's also made public gesture in this regard. He recently visited the mosque in Bangui again in a gesture to reach out to the Muslim community and show that they too, although a minority, very much have their place in the new CAR.

But none of threes ministers are drawn from the Christian or the Muslim militia, are they?

That's really because the Christian and Muslim militia movements weren't really a reflection of political factions. The Seleka Muslim rebels were basically formed by a group of warlords who recruited both among discontented people in the Muslim community of northern CAR but also mercenaries fighters from neighboring countries, such as the Darfur region of Sudan or Chad.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Balaka, although recruited mainly from Central Africans, was very much a militia movement, an armed movement, pushed up from elements of the community but not reflecting political leadership. The political class in the CAR was very largely disconnected from the conflict of the last two years.

Now that in some ways made it harder to bring peace because there were no political leaders who could really speak for the armed groups, no political leaders, who could, as it were, call on the men of guns to halt violence and join the peaceful process.

But the advantage, the positive aspect of that, is that most of the political class were clean of blame for the awful violence of the last two years and were in a position to be brought into government and work together.

What changes can Central Africans expect to see in their lives in the weeks and months ahead as a result of the appointment of this new government?

Well I think there are really two things. The first is that if the peace process is sustained, its crucial next test would be the disarmament, demobilization of militia fighters of both sides and their reintegration into either government security forces of one kind or another or into civilian life.

If that's sustained then we can look forward to government slowly rebuilding public services and public administrations and that in a sense would be the dual test.

We are waiting to see which minister or which two or three ministers would really have to take the lead on the DDR process: Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration into civilian lives of the militia fighters.

It could well be Jean Cedric Bokassa, who is the son of a former president of the CAR, and who is the new public security minister. If he can succeed in rebuilding peace and stability at a practical level, that is to say, getting young men who have guns and are disillusioned and somewhat footloose and in some cases living from banditry or racketeering norminally in the name of militias, if he can get those people back into civilian life then that is going to create easier conditions for the rest of the government to move forward with rebuilding basic public services. So that's going to be quite a practical administrative test for lots of these ministers.

Paul Melly is an Associate Fellow at the British Tink-Tank Chatham House

Interview: Mark Caldwell

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