Newly appointed Central African Republic (CAR) Prime Minister Celestin Le Roi Gaoumbale has formed a new transitional government to replace the one of Abel Goumba who was dismissed on Thursday and has since been appointed Vice-President, the minister for communication and government spokesman, Parfait Mbay, announced on Friday on state-owned Radio Centrafrique.
The new government comprises 28 ministers, including two women and six military officers.
Under the new administration, Lea Doumta was retained as social affairs minister while former commerce minister Hyacinthe Wodobode became minister of justice. Nine new ministers were named, among them former prime minister Jean Pierre Lebouder who becomes senior finance minister; Col Guy Kolingba, son of former president Andre Kolingba, who becomes youth and sports minister; and Col Mouhamed Marboua, chairman of the national Islamic community, who was appointed junior finance minister.
Col Kolingba was among the people sentenced to death in absentia in 2002, in connection with his father’s failed coup in May 2001.
Gaoumbale, 62, is a retired banker. He does not belong to any political party and has never occupied a senior position in the country's administration. He once headed the Banque de Developpement d’Afrique Centrale in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo and later the Banque Populaire Maroco-Centrafricaine in the CAR capital, Bangui.
Mbay announced that CAR leader Francois Bozize retains his position of defence minister in the new administration while immediate former ministers Paulin Bondeboli (public security), Pierre Gbianza (agriculture) and Bevala Lalah (education) were dismissed.
Former foreign minister Karim Meckassoua was appointed senior education minister. He was replaced by the former secretary of state for foreign affairs, Charles Wenezoui.
Local analysts perceived Bozize's dismissal of Goumba’s government on Thursday as the first major political crisis since his coup on 15 March when he ousted President Ange-Felix Patasse.
"It is not a political divorce between me and Bozize," Goumba told IRIN on Saturday. "The creation of the position of vice-president was a necessity that had been recommended by the [September-October] national dialogue," he added.
In a presidential decree, Bozize defined the role of the vice-president saying the holder of the post would replace the president in case of a long absence, collegially with the prime minister, the speaker of the national transitional council, the chairman of the highest court of appeal (cour de cassation) and the chairman of the medical doctors' association (ordre des medecins). He said the vice-president would attend cabinet meetings and could preside over them when authorised by the president.
The changes in the country's administration took place days after the EC and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) resumed cooperation with the CAR administration. "These changes will certainly provoke some delay [for the resumption of full cooperation]," Goumba said.
He said that he was satisfied by the achievements of his government during the nine months in office, citing its ability to pay civil servants' salaries up to October and to convince the EC and IMF to resume cooperation with the CAR.
Goumba said the CAR transitional administration had won the official recognition of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States (CEMAC), of the African Union and of several states. He said his government had successfully organised the national reconciliation dialogue in September-October and repatriated refugees who had followed former president Kolingba into exile after his coup attempt.
However, Goumba said that the country's security and human rights situation was still worrying and that much was yet to be done.
"Crimes and other human rights violations are still reported here and there, but we are doing our best to change this," Goumba said.
During the week that preceded the dismissal of Goumba's government, Bangui residents staged demonstrations and blocked streets to protest against the recent killing of three self-defence volunteers and an army officer by security forces and Chadians described as mercenaries. Goumba said the perpetrators of these crimes would be prosecuted.
Meantime, Radio Centrafrique reported on Saturday that a session of the military permanent tribunal would take place between Monday and 15 January 2004. Set up to judge the military, Patasse suspended the tribunal in 1995.
"This tribunal will help the government discipline its military and restore security," Alain Wabi Bekaye, the tribunal's prosecutor, was quoted as saying.
He said the tribunal would preside over a trial for five military officials charged with gang-raping a young woman in October in Bangui. It would also preside over trials for other military officials accused of various offences.