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Central African Republic leader appeals for international support

(CNN) -- The Central African Republic is pressing ahead with back payments to civil servants, hoping to ease frustration over paychecks that are more than two years late, in some cases. The government says it is also moving to meet United Nations demands for a better dialogue with the political opposition.

After a series of public protests, the government banned such gatherings. It accuses the opposition of exploiting economic discontent that should rightly be blamed on previous governments.

The International Monetary Fund has begun disbursing millions of dollars in loans that aim to improve The Central African Republic economy and diffuse tensions.

During a recent visit to the United States, Prime Minister Anicet Georges Dologuele: talked with Inside Africa's Jim Clancy about the need for debt relief, and direct investment to support democracy there.

Interested in Africa? Watch CNN International's Inside Africa. Click for show times and information.
 

Jim Clancy: Let me begin by asking you what do you see as the major challenges facing the Central African Republic today?

Anicet Georges Dologuele: Today our principal challenge is to exploit all the natural wealth that our country has given us. To finally let Central Africans profit from it. Because we have the paradox of being poor in a country that has been given immense natural riches. We have to bring some order to all of this, to find a means to exploit it so that the state and the country can benefit.

Clancy: Is it a matter of encouraging direct investment in the C.A.R., or are you in need of renewal of direct aid?

Dologuele: We need our debts to be canceled because we are a very indebted country, a poor country that uses the majority of its resources to pay its debts. So we need cancellation of the state debts to allow us to direct all our resources to the country's development. We need direct investment. We are a stable country. We are a country where investors are protected by the law. We're a country where all the conditions are right for investors to profit. We also need aid, development aid, to allow the population to have access to health and education.

Clancy: Employment is one of the key problems facing the C.A.R. Does the government have a plan or scheme that will address this problem in the agricultural sector, in the mineral sector and others?

Dologuele: We have a program to attract young people to agriculture because we have realized that many come out of the educational system with good degrees but they all hope to be hired by the state. That's why it's important that there is private enterprise because it can offer them work, but they can also develop their own businesses. And these young people can become interested in agricultural, farming and other livelihoods that the country can offer them. For that we have a vast program to allow them access to certain materials, that can get them involved in agriculture, such as tractors and the like. We also have a land development program to give them access to land. We have a program for seed distribution and education for young people who can make use of the land.

Clancy: When one looks at the C.A.R., it's easy to see from this very position, that its stability is so much affected by the situation in the sudan or particulary now in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I know you have been active in talking to others in region about stability. What have been the results? What is the outlook for stability?

Dologuele: We're one of the few neighboring states to the Congo because we have 1,200 kilometers of border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We're not taking sides in the war in Congo. We're observing a strict neutrality when it comes to this war in the neighboring, brother state and now we're suffering the effect of the war. It's obvious; the influx of refugees, sometimes armed refugees, which causes problems. We're also suffering from a major problem; the fighting is making it impossible for us to use the waterway to ship our goods or receive any, especially when it comes to petroleum products. And so we have to use our efforts to find a solution. The president of the republic has put himself to work full-time talking with all sides and we have taken the decision at the level of central Africa, through the summit of the heads of state. We've taken the decision to be a little bit more involved. That's why the heads of state met in Brazzaville, to support all efforts which can lead to peace and lead all the participants to meet.

Clancy: The C.A.R. -- perhaps the [biggest] change that has been seen has been the growth, the development of democracy in your country. What difference has it made? What expectations has it raised among your people?

Dologuele: We are today a fully democratic country. It is a point of pride that we have a parliament that is fully democratic with a free opposition. We have a private press, which takes position sometimes strongly against the authorities. We don't have any censorship in the Central African Republic when it comes to the press. We have no political prisoners. Sometimes the situation is the very opposite of that. Sometimes its gives a slight impression of disorder but that's normal. It's the start of democracy that's being built. So the state has to be tolerant, while making sure nonetheless that things don't come unglued. So I think that democracy is following its course and it's a good thing. You saw it during the legislative elections, you saw it during the presidential elections, you can see it in daily life. I think for a country that saw several years of dictatorship or one party rule, it's important progress and we have to hold on to it.

Clancy: All right Mr. Prime Minister, our thanks to you for being with us on Inside Africa.



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