BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Central African Republic's Prime Minister Firmin Ngrebada resigned Thursday, in the latest sign of fragility within the government already under threat from a coalition of armed groups opposed to the president.
The development also comes amid a turbulent week in Bangui after the French military announced it was suspending military operations with Central African Republic.
Critics had been calling for Ngrebada's ouster since March, when President Faustin Touadera was sworn in for another five-year term. Some raised concern about the prime minister's apparent ties to Russia, whose influence in the former French colony is growing.
The prime minister had been appointed to the job as part of a 2019 peace deal in Khartoum that now appears on the verge of collapse.
Central African Republic has seen waves of deadly inter-communal fighting since 2013, and violence erupted again last year after the constitutional court rejected former President Francois Bozize's presidential bid. Rebels aligned with Bozize attempted an attack on the capital in January, underscoring the security threat still facing the government.
In the capital, some felt Ngrebada had done the best he could given the growing presence of armed groups in vital sectors of the country's economy.
"Nevertheless, he maintained the balance by paying salaries, pensions and speaking truth to the armed groups who chose him to be prime minister,” said Eric Kpari, a student at the University of Bangui.
Others, though, felt his time as prime minister had failed to bring much needed change after years of conflict.
“We expected him to revive the economy through work and to revive good governance,” said Evelyne Rodongo. “Unfortunately, it was during his time as prime minister that scandals have multiplied."
Earlier this this week, about 160 French troops who were providing operational support and training Central African forces suspended their mission. The decision didn’t affect the approximately 100 French troops involved in U.N. peacekeeping forces and EU training forces in the country.
French officials have accused Bangui of failing to fight anti-French disinformation campaigns online, notably targeting the country's ambassador and defense attaché. They also have cited the government's treatment of political opposition.