Touadera names rebels in new Central African Republic govt

BANGUI (AFP) — Central African Republic Prime Minister Faustin-Archange Touadera, reappointed by President Francois Bozize 24 hours after his old government was dissolved, named rebel figures in his new ministerial line-up late Monday.

Touadera, who had originally assumed the post of prime minister in January 2008, "is named prime minister, head of the government," said a decree read out on the radio on Monday morning.

And the 51-year-old swiftly named representatives of rebels and other political opponents in a new, 31-minister government. Just 10 of the previous administration held onto their positions, in what amounted to a sweeping reshuffle.

Of symbolic importance was the nomination of Francois Naouyama from the Popular Army for the Restoration of Democracy rebel movement, the main rebel group active in the north since 2005, which was handed the environment and ecology portfolio.

Djomo Didou, of the Union of Democratic Forces for the Rally (UFDR), secured responsibility for the built environment and housing, while moderate opposition figures Moses Kotaye and Raymond Adouma also received posts covering enterprise and international cooperation.

News of Touadera's reappointment came after Bozize dissolved the government, having promised a new unity administration following the end of December peace talks aimed at halting a near civil war.

The long-delayed dialogue at last month's 12-day peace talks brought together some 200 representatives of Touadera's government, opposition, civil society groups and rebel movements. It was aimed at paving the way to ending unrest in the impoverished and landlocked country.

A new "consensus" government should be tasked with "restoring peace and security throughout the country" and "work for genuine and lasting reconciliation among its citizens," the final report from the talks said.

It admitted that "the many forums for reconciliation and dialogue have not enabled the Central African Republic to be rooted definitively in peace, stability and development, as shown by the insecurity and tragic events that occur in the north of the country."

A highlight of the conference that brought together the country's various factions was the return of ex-president Ange-Felix Patasse after five years in exile in Togo to attend the talks.

Patasse made a striking vow to recognise Bozize, who ousted him in the 2003 coup, rather than call for his removal.

The report recommended the holding of municipal elections this year followed by presidential and parliamentary polls in 2010.

It also called for auditing several economic sectors, disarming ex-combatants and creating a truth and reconciliation commission.

One of the world's poorest countries, Central African Republic has been racked for years by insecurity with rebel groups, bandits and government troops blamed for widespread criminal activity.