A new Central African Republic prime minister was named by presidential decree Friday, the day after the government resigned as the impoverished country struggles with a rebellion and a bustup with its traditional ally France.
Henri Marie Dondra was named prime minister in the decree read out on national radio, which takes effect immediately.
The appointment of the former finance minister comes after Firmin Ngrebada announced his resignation as prime minister, along with that of his government.
Reputedly close to President Faustin Archange Touadera, the new PM is also known for having a good knowledge of international finance and aid programmes, vital for the second least-developed country in the world, according to the UN.
The economic and humanitarian problems facing the CAR’s new prime minister are huge. The UN estimated at the end of May that nearly half of the population was “food insecure”, due to the coronavirus epidemic, but also because of the security situation.
Touadera was re-elected in December on a turnout of fewer than one in three voters.
The ballot was hampered by armed groups that at the time controlled around two-thirds of the country, and a rebel coalition mounted an offensive on the capital Bangui in the runup to polling day.
Legislative elections have since left Touadera’s United Hearts Movement (MCU) short of a parliamentary majority.
Since December, the army, backed by the 12,000-strong UN MINUSCA peacekeepers, Rwandan special forces and Russian paramilitaries, has wrested much of the territory from rebel control.
The Russians especially are credited with strengthening the otherwise poorly-equipped national army.
At the same time, ties with traditional ally and former colonial power France have been badly fraying.
Paris on Monday froze financial aid and suspended military cooperation, accusing Bangui of complicity in a Russian-organised disinformation campaign against France.
The anger was sparked after a French national, Juan Remy Quignolot, was arrested in Bangui on May 10. An image of him with an arsenal of weapons was distributed on social media.
On Wednesday, CAR prosecutors accused Quignolot of espionage and conspiracy and harming domestic security.
France has long played a key role in the CAR since the impoverished, landlocked country gained independence in 1960.
But since 2018, Russia has been competing with France for influence in the Central African Republic, by increasing its investments in mineral extraction and in military cooperation.
Last week, the former prime minister visited Saint Petersburg seeking further Russian investment.