The Central African Republic’s (CAR) prime minister has named mostly rebels and opposition figures to his new post-coup government, as reports emerged of child soldiers killed in the fight for the capital.
Central African Republic Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye — who has been allowed to keep his post by new strongman Michel Djotodia, whose rebels seized the capital a week ago — named a 34-member Cabinet on Sunday that includes nine ministers from the Seleka rebel coalition.
The new government, named in a decree read on national radio, also includes eight ministers from the former opposition and one close to ousted Central African Republic president Francois Bozize.
Rebel leader Djotodia, who named himself president after ousting Bozize on March 24, added the post of defense minister to his job titles.
The petroleum, security, water and forestry, and communications ministries also went to Seleka members.
Djotodia’s rebels launched a rapid-fire assault on the capital, Bangui, to oust Bozize after the collapse of a peace deal in January.
After days of looting and chaos, rebel soldiers have largely secured the city with the aid of a regional African force.
However, troubling reports of child soldiers being killed in the battle for Bangui were published on Sunday in South Africa, which had sent troops to the Central African Republic in a failed effort to stabilize the country before Bozize’s fall.
“It was only after the firing had stopped that we saw we had killed kids,” a paratrooper who took part in the fighting told the Sunday Times. “We did not come here for this ... to kill kids. It makes you sick. They were crying calling for help ... calling for [their] moms.”
In the City Press newspaper, a soldier was quoted as saying many of the rebels were “only children.”
The South African army declined to comment on the reports.
About 200 South African troops fought against about 3,000 rebels during the battle for Bangui, which lasted several hours.
In what has turned out to be South Africa’s heaviest military loss since apartheid, 13 soldiers were killed in the fighting.
South Africa’s government is facing increasing calls at home for a probe into why South African President Jacob Zuma sent troops to the Central African Republic.
Seleka, a coalition of three rebel groups, launched its insurgency in December last year, accusing Bozize of failing to honor earlier peace deals signed with rebels in the conflict-prone country.
They quickly came within striking distance of Bangui, forcing Bozize into signing the January deal, which created a power-sharing government with Tiangaye as prime minister.
However, the rebels said Bozize was not respecting the deal and renewed their assault.
The coup was welcomed by many in a city tired of Bozize’s unfulfilled promises to rebuild the nation by harnessing its stores of oil, gold and uranium.
However, fear quickly set in as swarms of armed men and gangs of looters roamed the city in the wake of the coup.
Djotodia vowed on Saturday to hand over power at the end of a three-year transition and not contest elections in 2016.
The latest in a long line of coup leaders, he said the rebels had come to power not through “political ambition, but through national duty.”
“I hope to be the last rebel chief president of Central Africa,” he told a crowd of supporters.