By Patrick Fort (AFP) – Jan 17, 2013
BANGUI, Central African Republic — Central African Republic President Francois Bozize officially appointed opposition figure Nicolas Tiangaye prime minister of the country's new national unity government Thursday, in line with a peace deal struck with rebels last week.
"Tiangaye wants this job and we wish him good luck," Bozize said at a ceremony in the capital Bangui attended by the Seleka rebel alliance, opposition figures and civil society groups.
The move complied with an accord reached between the ruling party, the rebel groups and the democratic opposition in the Gabonese capital of Libreville last week which seeks to bring peace to the unstable, impoverished nation and allowed for the opposition to choose a new premier.
"It's a relief for the Central African people, we can see peace on the horizon," said Tiangaye, 56, a celebrated lawyer known as a staunch human rights defender.
"The hard work begins," he told AFP. "The problem the government must address urgently is the pacification of the country and the restructuring of the army."
The formal appointment came after the Seleka rebel groups gave their backing to Tiangaye on Tuesday following talks with Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who heads a follow-up committee monitoring the peace accord.
The peace deal signed last Friday aims to resolve a conflict sparked on December 10 when the Seleka coalition launched an armed offensive, sweeping from the lawless north of the Central African Republic southwards before stopping just short of the capital Bangui.
To comply with the accord, which called for an immediate ceasefire, Bozize dismissed former premier Faustin Archange Touadera on Saturday, paving the way for a new national unity government.
Tiangaye is now faced with the challenge of forming a government representing not only the opposition and the governing party but also the Seleka coalition and other rebels who had signed prior peace deals.
Under last week's Libreville accord, mediated by the Economic Community of Central African States, Bozize will have no authority to sack a future government chief.
The pact also provides for a one-year transition period before parliamentary elections are held. Neither Tiangaye nor Bozize may run in the 2016 presidential vote.
In public remarks at the ceremony at the presidential palace naming him premier, Tiangaye urged all sides to work together "to avoid new crises".
Touching on his relationship with long-time adversary Bozize, he said: "Even in a family, people don't have the same assessment of problems...this is not a blocking element in politics. I have no personal problem with the president."
A lawyer by training, Tiangaye made a name for himself by defending Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the former self-proclaimed emperor. And in one high-profile case in 1989 he even defended Bozize, who was accused of conspiracy by the regime of the time.
Founder and former president of the Central African Human Rights League, Tiangaye threw himself into politics after Bozize came to power in a 2003 coup.
He presided over the national transition council and was one of the main authors of the current constitution, adopted in 2004, which provided that the president could serve no more than two terms consecutively -- putting him at odds with Bozize.
The Seleka insurgency was the latest in a series of uprisings that have rocked the Central African Republic, which has been notoriously unstable since its independence from France in 1960.
With Tiangaye in his post one of the rebel leaders, General Mahamat Moussa Dhaffane, said his country was ready to move on.
"We are not rebels by conviction," he said. "We agree that things should change... we will also change. The country needs peace and economic development. I want to leave a peaceful and prosperous country for our children."
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