Central Africa peace talks suspended after rebel no-show

Laudes Martial Mbon

Brazzaville (AFP) - Peace talks between Central Africa's sectarian rivals were suspended Tuesday after the ex-rebel Seleka group failed to show up less than a day before the deadline of a deal.

The two main negotiating sessions of the talks being held in Brazzaville -- one on securing an end to hostilities, the other on disarming fighters in CAR -- were subsequently suspended.

A third workshop on the political transition went ahead at the request of the regional grouping ECCAS, according to a member of the Congolese organising committee.

The Congolese source said delegates from the mainly Muslim Seleka had been provided with a copy of the draft accord for the talks, which had been due to end on Wednesday, and were apparently still studying the text.

One of Africa's poorest countries, CAR has been mired in chaos since the Seleka seized power in a March 2013 coup, with months of atrocities by rebels gone rogue sparking reprisal attacks by mostly Christian anti-balaka vigilantes.

The three-day forum for reconciliation and political dialogue, chaired by Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso and backed by a contact group of some 30 countries, was aimed a resolving the crisis that has left thousands of civilians dead and driven more than a million people from their homes.

Around 170 Central African officials had taken part including members of transitional President Catherine Samba Panza's government, lawmakers, envoys from armed groups, political parties and civil society.

But even as talks opened on Monday in Brazzaville, fresh violence broke out back in Bangui with the killing of a former Seleka rebel that sparked reprisal attacks from the mainly Christian anti-balalka.

The daily cycle of tit-for-tat attacks has ravaged the civilian population who has fled into neighbouring Chad and Cameroon, and strained delivery of humanitarian relief. Half the country is in need of humanitarian assistance, aid agencies say.

It was unclear what the draft accord for the Brazzaville talks contained. But on Tuesday delegates referred to a radio report in which the head of the Seleka delegation, Mohamed-Moussa Dhaffane, demanded that a power-sharing division for CAR as a precondition to any peace settlement.

For Guy-Herve Gbangolo, a delegate representing the Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC), an armed group operating in western CAR, the reported Seleka demand had put "a chill" over the gathering.