, BANGUI, Central African Republic, Mar 27 – The prime minister in the ousted Central African Republic regime said Wednesday that Bangui’s new strongman had reappointed him as the troubled nation’s new rulers tried to restore order and reassure the international community.
Power returned to the capital four days after Michel Djotodia and his Seleka rebel group seized Bangui, forcing president Francois Bozize to flee.
Bozize, who had also seized power in a 2003 coup, has surfaced in Cameroon, where authorities have said he was awaiting relocation to another country.
Nicolas Tiangaye, a lawyer and respected former human rights activist, was the consensus prime minister named in January under a power-sharing deal between Bozize and Seleka that ended a first rebel offensive.
“I have been renamed prime minister, the decree has been signed,” Tiangaye told AFP.
Djotodia, a more enigmatic figure who spent years as a civil servant and diplomat before founding a rebel movement in 2005, had said on Monday he intended to keep Tiangaye as premier.
The coup leader, who dissolved parliament and announced he would rule by decree, has stressed he would stick to the spirit of national unity enshrined in the Libreville ceasefire deal signed in January.
“The context has changed but the players are the same,” Tiangaye said, adding that he would soon unveil an inclusive cabinet line-up.
But Djotodia also said fresh elections would not be held for another three years and ostensibly stopped short of ruling himself out of the polls.
Tiangaye, who was Seleka’s choice after the January deal, admitted that his relations with Djotodia would be far better than with Bozize.
Businesses were slowly reopening in Bangui, where Seleka forces have enlisted the help of the regional FOMAC force to help patrol the streets and crack down on the looting that erupted during the coup.
Taxis were back on the streets of the capital and national radio resumed its broadcasts but many residents were still struggling with shortages.
“We have nothing to eat, I am feeding my children with water and salt,” said one mother in Bangui’s Benz VI district who is employed by a telecommunication company whose offices were pillaged.
Former colonial power France, which boosted its military contingent to 550 troops for the protection of its 1,200 expatriate community, was also involved in efforts to secure the city.
The Central African Republic, a landlocked country the size of France but with a population of only around 4.5 million, has great mineral wealth which has remained largely untapped throughout its coup-plagued post-independence history.
It is highly reliant on foreign aid and Bangui’s international partners have condemned the bloody coup but mostly stopped short of expressing clear support for Bozize.
Giving his general audience to thousands of people gathered in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis joined the chorus of calls for peace.
“I appeal for an immediate stop to violence and pillaging, and for a political solution to the crisis to be found as soon as possible to bring peace,” he said.
As a semblance of normalcy returned to the sprawling riverside capital, it remained difficult to assess the human cost of the coup, which Djotodia and his men seize the city in a rapid-fire assault Saturday and Sunday.
The Red Cross only said that the chaos left “a large number of dead and wounded”.
South Africa lost 13 of its troops stationed in Bangui during the violence, in the heaviest military loss since the end of apartheid two decades ago.
The deaths shocked South Africa and voices have risen to question the true purpose of Pretoria’s military presence in the Central African Republic.