Talks Suspended in Brazzaville as Seleka Rebels Fail to Show UpJuly 23, 2014 in Central Africa Republic
Just one day after peace talks were launched between the Central African Republic’s sectarian rivals, on Tuesday the talks were suspended after the ex-rebel Seleka group failed to show up for the second day of the forum. The suspension came one day before the deadline to reach a deal that the international community was hoping would bring an end to the on going violence.
Sources indicated Tuesday that delegates from the mainly Muslim Seleka had been provided a copy of the draft accord for the talks, which had been due to end on Wednesday, however they were apparently still studying the text. According to a member of the Congolese organizing committee, the two main negotiation sessions of the talks, one focusing on securing and bringing an end to hostilities while the other focusing on disarming fighters in the CAR, were suspended as a result. A third workshop on the political transition went ahead at the request of the regional grouping ECCAS.
The three-day forum for reconciliation and political dialogue, chaired by Congo’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso and backed by a contact group composed of some thirty countries, was aimed at resolving the crisis that has already left thousands of civilians dead and has driven more than a million people from their homes, with many fleeing into neighbouring Cameroon and Chad. The continuing tit-for-tat attacks have also strained delivery of humanitarian relief, with aid agencies indicating that half the country is in need of humanitarian assistance. Around 170 Central African officials were taking part in the talks, including members of transitional President Catherine Samba Panza’s government, along with lawmakers, envoys from armed groups, political parties and civil society. While the Seleka rebel group’s failure to attend the talks signifies another set back for the CAR’s return to stability, recent clashes, that broke out as the talks opened Monday, have further demonstrated that the current on the ground situation is also far from reconciliation.
On Monday, new violence broke out in Bangui with the killing of a former Seleka rebel, which has sparked reprisal attacks from the mainly Christian anti-balaka group. The African Union-led peacekeeping force in the CAR, MISCA, has blamed the anti-balaka groups for the killing, stating the victim was on his way “to get breakfast” near the main hospital when he was killed. His death sparked allies of the victim to storm out of their nearby base camp, where they began looting, robbing stores and firing off shots and taking a group of students captive. According to a MISCA source, a “…number of youth from the high school next to the hospital were also taken prisoner by the ex-Seleka.” Although MISCA and European-led forces have taken up positions to secure the hospital area, where the fighting occurred, Monday’s violence has underscored the challenge facing peace negotiators in Brazzaville.
The CAR plunged into chaos when the Seleka rebel group seized power in a March 2013 coup. Since then, there have been months of atrocities that have been carried out by rebels gone rogue, which have in turn sparked reprisal attack carried out by the mostly Christian anti-balaka vigilante group.