Central African Republic rebel leader Michel Djotodia appointed a 34-member government a week after ousting President Francois Bozize by storming the capital, Bangui.
Officials from the Seleka rebel movement were given control of the oil, security, defense and economy ministries, according to a statement read on state radio yesterday. The government also includes other opposition members.
Bozize fled the country to neighboring Cameroon on March 24 after the rebels seized Bangui. Seleka a week earlier ended a cease-fire, agreed on in January, when Bozize failed to meet rebel demands to double the number of Cabinet posts they hold in a two-month-old unity government.
The Central African Republic has been plagued by violence since independence from France in 1960. At least four battles for Bangui took place from 1996 until 2003, when Bozize toppled predecessor Ange-Felix Patasse, whom he served as army chief. Seleka began its rebellion in December after accusing Bozize of failing to honor a 2008 peace accord. An agreement signed in Libreville in January ended the fighting and created the unity government.
Thirteen South African soldiers, who have been in the country since 2007, were killed in the battle for Bangui. The South African troops were in Central African Republic to provide training, Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said. Seleka had demanded that Bozize order the soldiers to withdraw before they ended their cease-fire.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stopped short of calling the rebel takeover a coup.
“A coup, as legally understood, generally involves the military of the country,” she told reporters today. “Here we have rebels.”
She said the U.S. was “not satisfied” with the way the country’s new rulers had taken power and urged any future government of the country be decided in “an inclusive democratic manner” that respects the Libreville accord. “This is not that,” she said.
Pangea Diamondfields Inc., an Isle of Man-based exploration company, owns a concession in Central African Republic that is currently on care and maintenance, according to the company’s website.
Axmin Inc., a Canadian gold explorer, said Jan. 7 it delayed plans to open a mine in the country by at least a year because of the rebellion. Areva SA, a French developer of nuclear reactors, started removing employees from its Bakouma uranium mine in the Central African Republic after an attack last year.
The country has a gross domestic product of about $3.6 billion and earns most of its foreign currency from timber and diamond exports, according to the CIA World Factbook.