Central African Republic rebels demand partition in Brazzaville talks

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BRAZZAVILLE (Reuters) – Seleka rebels have demanded that Central African be partitioned into a Muslim north and a south, a surprise move at talks aimed at halting religious violence, sources at the meeting said on Tuesday.

Seleka’s head delegation to the three-day forum in Brazzaville, General Mohamed Moussa Dhaffane, told a session it time to formalise the split after tens thousands Muslims had fled the south.

The talks, bringing together 169 the transitional government, civil society and armed groups, are aimed at reaching a and disarmament the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels and ‘anti-balaka’ militia.

Thousands have been killed and a million forced homes by months of sectarian violence in the country which erupted after Seleka fighters seized power in the majority country in March 2013.

After a 10-month rule marked by looting, torture and murder, Seleka leader and interim president Michel Djotodia stepped down under international pressure.

The Christian militias stepped up revenge attacks on Muslims, driving the rebels along with Muslim civilians northwards, creating a de facto partition.

Abakar Sabone, a Muslim former minister and leader of the MLCJ movement in the meeting, said the Seleka were demanding as a precondition to continue talks that the country should be split in two.

“They (Seleka), represent the Muslim community in the north. The partition is already effective because all Muslims are now in the north and the current government has access to the north,” Sabone said. “Seleka are voicing what that community in the north wants,” he added.

The partition calls came as a surprise to mediators including of Congo’s President Denis Sassou N’Guesso, chairing the session.

N’Guesso threw down his pen in exasperation and leaned back after the partition demand was made, another witness of the session, told Reuters, requesting anonymity.

Seleka , Central African interim government authorities and mediators, were not immediately available to comment on the Seleka demands.

By afternoon on Tuesday, the Seleka delegation had not shown up at the convention centre where the talks were taking place.

Jean Marie Michel Mokoko, the head of the African Union peacekeeping in Central African Republic, told Reuters that partition was not up for discussion at the moment.

“Only the future of the talks will us if this idea of the partition of the country is a real wish. Whatever the case, at the moment, we are not interested in that aspect,” Mokoko said.