Ex-rebel movement ousts members joining new C. African government

Members of the ex-Seleka rebels drive near a convoy of Chadian soldiers (Unseen) leaving Bangui escorted by the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA) on April 4, 2014 (AFP Photo/Miguel Medina)

Bangui (Central African Republic) (AFP) - The Seleka former rebel alliance in the troubled Central African Republic has ousted members who have joined a broad-based new government, accusing them on Monday of "high treason".

"All members of the Seleka ex-coalition who have taken part in the current government are definitively barred from the movement," Seleka second-in-command Nouredine Adam said in a statement obtained by AFP.

"Their participation in the government constitutes high treason and a lack of respect for the instructions given by the hierarchy" of the rebel movement, the statement said.

On August 22, interim President Catherine Samba Panza and her new prime minister, Mahamat Kamoun, unveiled a new government to turn around a country wracked by strife unleashed by the mainly Muslim Seleka and their "anti-balaka" (anti-machete) foes, who are vigilante forces that emerged to avenge atrocities by the ex-rebels.

Kamoun gave three portfolios -- transport, posts and telecommunications, and animal husbandry -- to members of the Seleka, who took power in a coup in March 2013, for ten months.

Their leader, Michel Djotodia, was forced by regional leaders to step down as head of state in January this year, for his failure to halt bloodshed against civilians.

Adam's wing in the crumbling alliance of ex-rebels wanted no part in the new government, which is set to oversee a political transition and elections with the help of foreign peacekeepers, currently including African Union troops and a French military force.

In Monday's statement, Adam said the Seleka had "neither supported nor suggested the name of a prime minister or other ministerial names (from ex-rebel ranks) to the president's office."

His forces thereby confirmed a statement from the authorities, which noted the failure of the Seleka to join a political process that has also seen anti-balaka leaders drawn into the 31-member government.

Nevertheless, Adam declared that Seleka leaders were "determined to find a just, fair and lasting political solution via dialogue and negotiation with all key forces in the country".

Adam has been placed under an assets freeze and a travel ban by the United Nations and the United States for standing in the way of political progress, threatening peace and stability, violating human rights and diamond trafficking to fund rebel activity.

The violence in the past 18 months has left thousands of civilians dead, while more than a quarter of the population of some 4.6 million has been displaced.