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CAR: Religion drives political unity

By Konye Obaji Ori
Posted on Monday, 11 August 2014 10:44

Mahamat Kamoun becomes the first Muslim to serve as prime minister in the Central African Republic since it gained independence from France in 1960.

Kamoun was appointed by the presidential decree of the interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza.

The optics of Kamoun’s appointment on Sunday August 10, is expected to sway Seleka rebels into conciliation, reassure the CAR’s Muslim minority community, and weaken support for those pushing for partition.

Kamoun is not a formal member of the Muslim Seleka rebellion, but he is thought to have an influence on some of its leaders.

Representatives of anti-balaka forces, and the Seleka coalition signed a tentative ceasefire at talks in Brazzaville, Congo.

The Brazzaville summit has focused on ceasefire, reconciliation, and the formation of an inclusive government.

Although Kamoun’s appointment has been described as progress in the peace process, the ceasefire, signed in Brazzaville, remains extremely fragile.

Besides his religion, Kamoun is an expert in finance, and had served as director general of the treasury under former president Francois Bozize, between 2003 and 2013.

Both Samba-Panza, a Christian, and Kamoun, Muslim, have been tasked to revive unity and peaceful coexistence among the nation’s major religions.

But it likely the opposing sides, Seleka and anti-Balaka militants, may demand roles in government as part of the peace process, analysts have suggested.

CAR has struggled to end the deadly sectarian violence and disarm militias since the rule of law fell apart in March 2013 when the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition toppled the ruling regime and put Michel Djotodia – the country’s first Muslim president – in power.