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May 30, 2017

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Seleka ex-rebels say 'no' to joining new government in CAR

BANGUI, Central African Republic--The armed Seleka coalition that last year seized power in the Central African Republic for 10 months wants no part of a new government, a spokesman for the former rebels said Monday.

The announcement by the mainly Muslim ex-rebels in the troubled Christian majority nation came a day after transitional President Catherine Samba Panza appointed a Muslim to lead a new broad-based government.

"We think the transitional president didn't take account of the views of the Seleka, which still controls the major part of the country," Seleka spokesman Abou Mal Mal Hissene told AFP.

"The Seleka will not participate in the next government," he said, adding that the fragmented coalition of former rebels only learned of the appointment of a new prime minister "by way of foreign media."

Samba Panza, who took office in January after Seleka leader Michel Djotodia stepped down under intense regional pressure, on Sunday named Mahamat Kamoun to work to end the chaos and oversee a democratic transition.

Kamoun is the first Muslim since independence from France in 1960 to hold high office in the deeply poor landlocked nation.

Around 80 percent of the population are Christian, while 15 percent practice Islam and the remainder are animist, according to a U.S. State Department survey in 2010.

'Not a Seleka member'

Though Seleka fighters are mostly Muslim, the coalition's "military leaders do not for the most part approve of the appointment of Mahamat Kamoun, whom they don't consider to be a member of Seleka," another re-rebel said.

However, the financial expert previously served as chief cabinet secretary under Djotodia, and was also director-general of the state treasury in the regime of Francois Bozize, the former general who ruled for 10 years before being overthrown by Seleka.

Djotodia was forced out largely because he failed to prevent Seleka forces from carrying out atrocities against civilians in the capital Bangui and elsewhere.

Their actions led to the formation of "anti-balaka" (anti-machete) vigilante units to protect largely Christian communities. But the anti-balaka militias also committed serious crimes against humanity, according to rights groups.

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