The Central African Republic has named Mahamat Kamoun, formerly a special adviser to interim President Catherine Samba-Panza, as its first Muslim prime minister in efforts to create a more inclusive government and end more than a year of sectarian violence in the country.
Kamoun was appointed by presidential decree as the nation rallies around a transitional government led by President Samba-Panza, herself appointed as the country’s first female president in January following a seven-month stint as Mayor of Bangui starting in May 2013.
A specialist in finance, Kamoun was the director general of the treasury under former president Francois Bozize, but now he faces the difficult task of implementing the precarious ceasefire signed in July and disarming the militias together with President Samba-Panza.
Under the ceasefire, representatives of both the Seleka rebel coalition and anti-balaka forces met and signed an agreement that would see the government step-down and take steps to form a government inclusive of the full political spectrum.
The anti-balaka militias rose to prominence following the overthrow of former President Francois Bozizé by the Seleka coalition in March 2013, after which the militias in turn chased the rebel’s leader, Prime Minister Michael Djotodia, from power, in a move that only further fuelled the violence.
President Samba-Panza was ushered into office to deal with a situation described at the time as “desperate as an understatement” by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as a figure who could bring together parties from across the political divide and pave the way for elections by February 2015.
As a stateswoman, Samba-Panza has avoided any participation, either active or tacit, in the tremendous sectarian violence, so much so that, according to the New York Times, her supporters refer to her as “untainted” by the violence, and she has also brokered peace in the country before.
Paul Simon Handy of the Institute for Security Studies, a South African think-tank, elaborated that Samba-Panza, “is a president who can unite both the country and the political elite,” and as a first step, the well-judged appointment of Kamoun as prime minister is a positive development.