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Conflict

CAR premier: 'Central African Republic not an anti-Muslim country'

A year ago Seleka rebels ousted President Bozize in Central African Republic. The Seleka have since been replaced by a new interim government. Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke outlines his priorities.

DW: Prime Minister, exactly a year has elapsed since the coup against President Francois Bozize. How would you describe the present situation in Central African Republic?

Andre Nzapayeke: The situation was strongly influenced by the overthrow of the regime and the seizure of power by the Seleka coalition. Both led to the total collapse of the Central African state and its public services. As regards to security, the situation remains very volatile. There are a large number of refugees in neighboring countries and a large number of internally displaced persons in various locations in the capital and in the interior of the country. The approaching rainy season is a real problem for the supply of aid to these refugees. So there are still many challenges for the government before order can be restored.

Is former president Bozize still involved in the affairs of the country behind the scenes?

The situation was deteriorating even while the former president was still in office. The lack of regard for the country's economic development, for equality of opportunity and for the needs and concerns of the population culminated in the rise of citizens' and guerrilla movements. As for the current situation, which has been largely shaped by the anti-balaka, we have evidence that former President Bozize continues to play a role. Most of the anti-balaka militia are former members of the Central African armed forces (FACA) and many supporters of President Bozize are also to be found in the ranks of the anti-balaka. They have been calling for the return of Bozize before the end of the current transitional period. One can say that he (Bozize) is somehow still involved.

What is your government doing to restore order in Central African Republic?

The question of security is the most important one for the transitional government. This means we have to take concrete steps to arrest offenders bring them to court and send them to jail. The judiciary is of fundamental importance, it is only through the judiciary that we can restore the authority of the state in Central African Republic. It is the only way to restore confidence of the people in the state. We need to stimulate the economy, because the state has no resources it can draw upon. By the time the 2015 elections take place, the security situation will have to be good, and public services need to be working properly, especially in the interior. We are in the process of re-building our security forces, primarily the police and gendarmerie. That should help us make districts and villages safer again.

But the violence continues despite your efforts. One wonders whether it is not time to be tougher on those who are behind these crimes?

We have a two-pronged approach. Firstly, we rely on dialogue. We stretch out our hand to those who want to talk to us, regardless of whether they are anti-balaka, ex- Seleka or from any other grouping. At the moment, we have a system in which there is no opposition, because this government emerged out of national consensus. We are convinced, though, that the crisis will be solved politically in the end.

Secondly, the state must regain its authority. The state must be able to arrest criminals, take them through a quick legal process and send them to prison. As I said this is the only way to regain the people's trust. I have spoken to many individuals who tell me, 'I have suffered this or that injustice, the Seleka regime did this or that to me, there was no one who could help me. So I decided to take revenge, to take up arms and to join the anti-balaka'. It was this feeling of being abandoned by the government and the judiciary that made some people join this movement. So if you want a solution, we have to have a strong judiciary again. And we have to solve this problem quickly. Central African Republic is not an anti-Muslim country. The government of Central African Republic condemns criminal acts against the Muslim community in the strongest terms. We must spare no effort to prosecute criminals who use religion as a pretext to enrich themselves.

What do you expect from Germany?

A week ago, we had the honor of hosting German Development Minister Gerd Müller. It was the first time that a German minister had visited the Central African Republic. This visit demonstrates the importance that Germany attaches to the search for a sustainable solution to the crisis in Central African Republic. We encouraged the minister to promote more flexibility in the disbursement of aid that the European Union has promised us. We need help urgently. As for the humanitarian crisis, we hope to receive aid from the charitable organizations in Germany, as well as from the German government. When its GTZ development program was in operation, Germany was one of Central African Republic's main partners. But since the GTZ has been disbanded and turned into the GIZ, the level of cooperation has declined sharply. We hope that this former level of cooperation with Germany will be restored. Germany plays an important role in rural development, in the supply of drinking water, the protection of wildlife, in the construction sector and in many other fields.

Andre Nzapayeke is the interim prime minister of the Central African Republic.

Interview: Kossivi Tiassou.

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