, BANGUI, Apr 2 – The Central African Republic’s new post-coup government was due to hold its first meeting as soon as Tuesday, its spokesman said, as anger rose in South Africa over its military mission in the restive country.
The cabinet is seeking to buttress its legitimacy after rebels seized the Central African capital late last month in a rapid-fire assault that left dozens of people dead, including 13 South African troops.
“We must get to work as soon as possible,” government spokesman Crepin Mboli Goumba told AFP.
Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye named the 34-member cabinet on Sunday, a week after the rebels announced they had seized the presidential palace and three days before regional leaders hold an emergency meeting on the situation in the Central African Republic.
The government includes nine ministers from new strongman Michel Djotodia’s Seleka rebel coalition, eight ministers from the former opposition and one close to ousted president Francois Bozize, who fled the country after the coup.
Djotodia, who named himself president after ousting Bozize, added the post of defence minister to his job titles.
The remaining 16 portfolios went to civil society leaders and smaller political parties.
The latest coup in the chronically unstable nation came after a January peace deal between Bozize’s regime and Djotodia’s rebels collapsed amid allegations the ousted leader had failed to honour the terms of the accord.
One rebel fighter welcomed the new government, saying: “It is a Seleka-opposition government. It is what we wanted. Bozize’s people have nothing to do with it.”
But some opposition members criticised the composition of the government, with one leading opposition party threatening not to take part.
“We want to suspend opposition ministers’ participation in the government,” said Edouard Koyambounou of the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC).
“The government doesn’t give enough spots to the opposition. There are too many ministers from civil society, which has never been down here in the streets. And some of its members are close to the KNK,” Bozize’s Kwa Na Kwa, or “Work, nothing but work”.
Other opposition members said the government was too top-heavy.
“It is bogus. They wanted to please too many incompetent people. There are too many people in government for it to work,” one said.
In South Africa, the main opposition Democratic Alliance said it will lodge a parliamentary motion to force the government to withdraw its troops from the Central African Republic after the army suffered its worst losses since apartheid.
Officially some 200 troops were sent to train local forces under a 2007 deal between President Jacob Zuma and Bozize, but South African media have raised questions about the true nature of the deployment.
Local press reports suggested the soldiers were sent to protect the business interests of certain South African politicians.
“The conclusion is inescapable that the South African troops were deployed to defend the faltering and dictatorial Bozize regime,” the Democratic Alliance said.
Zuma is due Wednesday to attend an extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in Chad devoted to the crisis in the Central African Republic.
Seleka, a loose coalition of three rebel groups, launched its insurgency in December, accusing Bozize of failing to honour earlier peace deals signed with rebels.
Djotodia vowed Saturday to hand over power at the end of a three-year transition and not contest elections in 2016.
“I hope to be the last rebel chief president of Central Africa,” he told a crowd of supporters.