Call for dialogue over Central Africa conflict

2014-06-28 11:10
Ex-Seleka rebels drive in a truck in Bangui in CAR. (Fred Dufour, AFP)

Ex-Seleka rebels drive in a truck in Bangui in CAR. (Fred Dufour, AFP)

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Malabo - All sides involved in the deadly conflict in the Central African Republic need to work together if the country is to get over the current gridlock, the president of neighbouring Chad said on Friday.

"The situation is at a stalemate," Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno said after a meeting with other leaders from the region at the sidelines of an African Union summit in Malabo.

He added that it was time to make "tough decisions" so that the country again sees peace, but said that would require "a frank and sincere" dialogue between all parties in the conflict.

The Central African Republic has seen more than a year of unrest, with violence between mostly-Muslim ex-Seleka rebels and largely Christian anti-balaka militias leaving thousands dead and about a quarter of the almost 4.5 million population displaced.

Violence in the last week, triggered by the killing of 17 Muslims in a camp in the Central Bambari region on Monday, has led to a fresh bout of tit-for-tat violence in which a total of 70 people have died.

Despite the presence of French and African peacekeepers abuses by armed groups from both sides against civilians continues.

Dialogue

The country has been excluded from the AU's summits since the start of the crisis in 2013 - but transitional president Catherine Samba Panza was invited to the latest meeting in Equatorial Guinea.

Following the summit, Cameroonian President Paul Baya said fellow leaders had pushed for dialogue between fighting sides in the country.

"We have made known our view that dialogue should include all the different forces in the country -the political parties, the NGO's, religious leaders, the anti-balaka, the Seleka, so that everyone is represented as we try to rebuild the country," he said.

A diplomatic source said that "there has not been any dialogue before today, the main actors in the conflict do not talk to each other... the transitional government is completely isolated".

The current crisis began when the Seleka seized power in a coup in March 2013, ousting the president and installing Michel Djotodia as head of state.

He resigned last January, but both the ex-Seleka rebels and the Christian militias have been accused of committing widespread atrocities since then.

The country is in some senses torn in two, with many Muslims forced to flee entire regions in the south and west of the country under threat of anti-balaka violence, while in the east and north of the country, Christian populations live in fear of the Seleka fighters.
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