Ex-ministers still in hiding, despite Bozize pledge on security

Former Central African Republic (CAR) ministers Martin Ziguele and Gabriel Jean Edouard Koyambounou are still in hiding in embassies in the capital, Bangui, despite a pledge by new CAR leader Francois Bozize to all officials linked to former President Ange-Felix Patasse that their security is guaranteed if they return to their homes.

Ziguele was prime minister and Koyambounou the minister of state for communications in Patasse's administration, which ended on 15 March when Bozize seized power in a coup. Most officials in Patasse's government sought refuge in embassies in Bangui following the coup. Patasse is now in exile in Togo.

Former national assembly speaker Luc Apolinaire Konamabaye and former interior minister Jacquesson Mazzette heeded Bozize's call and have come out of hiding.

In a related development, Patasse's political party, the Mouvement de liberation du people centrafricain (MLPC) issued a statement on Tuesday protesting against what it termed a "witch hunt" against its members since the coup.

Signed by MLPC deputy chairman Hugues Dobozendi, the statement recounted an incident on 16 May during which 20-25 armed men attacked and looted the home of former water and forestry minister Jean Michel Mandaba.

"The MLPC executive board vigorously denounces and condemns that odious act, which is not the first of its kind since the change that took place in the country on 15 March," the party said.

Dobozendi also said the party was against the government's move to freeze former ministers' bank accounts and transfer their salaries to the public treasury. It also opposed the disconnection of the former ministers' telephone lines and the occupation of their homes by "former Chadian rebels".

The MLPC executive board announced its support for Bozize days after he took power from Patasse. When Prime Minister Abel Goumba announced his new cabinet, two ministers were named from the MLPC. The party has also been included in the 96-member National Transitional Council, whose delegates are due to be announced in the next few days.

Meanwhile, an association for journalists, the Groupement des Editeurs de la Presse Privee de Centrafrique denounced on Monday the 18 May arrest of its secretary-general, Michel Ngopkele, who is also a journalist for "Le Quotidien de Bangui". He was charged with slander and transferred to Mbaiki, 107 km southwest of Bangui.