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Central Africa rebels form government

(AFP) – Apr 1, 2013 

BANGUI, Central African Republic — The Central African Republic's new post-coup government vowed Monday it would get straight to work, as anger rose in South Africa over its military presence in the restive country.

Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye on Sunday named a 34-member cabinet that includes nine ministers from the Seleka rebel coalition which seized Bangui in a rapid-fire assault a week ago that left dozens of people dead including South African troops.

"We must get to work as soon as possible," government spokesman Crepin Mboli Goumba said, adding that ministers would be sworn in this week.

The new government includes eight ministers from the former opposition and one close to ousted president Francois Bozize, who fled the country after the coup.

Rebel leader Michel Djotodia, who named himself president after ousting Bozize, added the post of defence minister to his job titles.

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."

However some opposition members were critical of the top-heavy government.

"It is bogus. They wanted to please too many incompetent people. There are too many people in government for it to work," one said.

After days of looting and chaos, rebel soldiers have largely secured the city with the aid of a regional African force, but looting and abuses continued in outlying areas.

"We are busy securing the country but there are FACA (Central African Armed Forces) who have fled into the bush, there are Mbororo (ethnic Fulani farmers) and bandits disguised as Seleka who are committing abuses," said new Security Minister Nourendine Adam.

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 13 soldiers died during the coup.

"Given the continued controversy surrounding the deployment, the lack of a clear mandate for our troops to remain in the CAR, the continued risk to the soldiers' safety and rumours that the (military) is considering a 'revenge' mission into the CAR, we believe the entire... presence should be withdrawn immediately," it said in a statement.

Officially some 200 troops were sent to train local forces under a 2007 deal between President Jacob Zuma and Bozize, but South Africa's heaviest military loss since apartheid has raised questions about the true nature of the deployment.

Local media reports suggested the soldiers were sent to protect the business interests of certain South African politicians in the country.

"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 which is devoted to the crisis in the Central African Republic.

Troubling reports have emerged in South Africa of child soldiers being killed in the battle for Bangui.

"It was only after the firing had stopped that we saw we had killed kids," a paratrooper told the Sunday Times. "We did not come here for this... to kill kids. It makes you sick. They were crying calling for help... calling for (their) moms."

The South African army declined to comment on the reports.

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.

They quickly came within striking distance of Bangui, forcing Bozize into signing the January deal, which created a power-sharing government with Tiangaye as prime minister.

But the rebels claimed Bozize was not respecting the deal and renewed their assault.

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.