News / Africa

New CAR Government Taking Shape

Newly parliamentary-elected interim President of the Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza walks into the National Assembly prior to her swearing-in ceremony in the capital Bangui, Jan. 23, 2014.
Newly parliamentary-elected interim President of the Central African Republic Catherine Samba-Panza walks into the National Assembly prior to her swearing-in ceremony in the capital Bangui, Jan. 23, 2014.
Nick Long
The Central African Republic's new interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, faces massive challenges after more than a year of political unrest and inter-religious violence in the country. On Tuesday, the interim leader and her prime minister announced the names of the ministers who will serve in the new government.
At her swearing-in ceremony last week, the president promised a government of technocrats. She also said the new government’s priority would be to disarm and demobilize all the armed groups in the country and ensure they re-enter civilian life.
Human rights activist Thierry Konde, who heads a network of activists in the C.A.R., said the president has delivered on the first of her promises.   
The new ministers really are technocrats, he said. They know their dossiers, and while there might be some people criticizing them already, he believes they can really achieve something and should be given the chance to do so.
Out of 20 ministers, only about six were ministers in previous governments.  Seven are women, a record for the C.A.R.  The women are not just there for the décor, added Konde. They are all experts in their respective fields.
The influx of women has pleased Marie Veronique Manda Kondji, a midwife.
It’s the beginning of a reign of women, she thinks. She feels that a woman can represent everyone, that a woman is the symbol of softness and smiles and that a woman can also act as a mother for the nation.
The government also includes three ministers who were in the largely Muslim Seleka rebel alliance that took power in Bangui last March, and one minister associated with the largely Christian or animist anti-Balaka militia that has been fighting the Seleka.
Konde comments that it is a good idea, at this stage, to have people from the militias involved in the government. 
One of the three ex-Seleka ministers has been appointed senior Minister of State, meaning he is No. 3 in the hierarchy after the prime minister. The anti-Balaka’s man, Leopold Narcisse Bara, comes 19th in the hierarchy as Minister of Youth and Sport.
Joachin Kokate, a leading spokesman and self declared coordinator of the anti-Balaka, which have killed many Muslim civilians in the past two months, told VOA that anti-Balaka members don’t feel the Minister for Youth and Sport represents them. However, he added, they understand that the choice has been made, and they must move on because the Central African people are watching them - so is the international community, very closely.
Maybe Bara was considered acceptable because, according to Thierry Konde, he is not known to have been inciting ethnic and religious hatred, unlike some of the other anti-Balaka. Konate told VOA that now is the time for messages of peace.
At this time we must speak only in terms of pacification, he said. As for those who will try to incite people or divide the population, the United Nations will take the necessary measures from this point onwards.
Kokate said the anti-Balaka consists partly of ex-soldiers who want to be incorporated into the army, with officer ranks in some cases, and partly of civilians, many from rural areas, who want help to go home. He acknowledged that the Seleka come from similar backgrounds and said that so long as they are Central Africans, they should also be offered the chance to enroll in the army.
The new Minister of Defense is a relatively young man and a serving soldier, Thomas Theophile Tchimoanga. He will have the difficult task of rebuilding the C.A.R. army and deciding which militia fighters to put where.
Encouragingly, he seems to have support from the army hierarchy.
Politician Joel Yangongo, the son of the veteran general and politician Xavier Sylvestre Yangongo, is optimistic that Tchimoanga is ready for the task.
Joel Yangongo said the new defense minister is young but has a very good reputation with the Central African military, has the skills required, was trained at a military college and knows all about the army.
The anti-Balaka’s other main demand, according to Kokate, is that a sovereign national conference be held in the near future. However, he pointed out that this could wait until after the national elections.

You May Like

Nearly Every Job in America Mapped in Detail

A nifty map pinpoints practically every job in the United States, revealing the economic character of America’s metropolitan areas, which also helps to inform the local culture

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video In Cambodian Capital, Political Motives Seen Behind Canceled Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle reports from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs