13 killed in run-up to latest Central Africa peace bid

BANGUI, Central African Republic – Thirteen people were killed in a weekend attack in the west of Central African Republic, just days before the opening of peace talks, local and UN sources said on Tuesday, January 22.

"There were 13 deaths, including a pastor and a gendarme. We went to the site to confirm the facts," said a UN source, confirming a report from a source close to the Fulani herder community.

"The violence was started by armed Fulanis," said Vladimir Monteiro, spokesman for MINUSCA, the UN's mission in CAR, referring to an ethnic group widespread across West Africa, who traditionally breed livestock.

A joint patrol of UN troops and Internal Security Forces (FSI) had gone to Zaoro Sangou, the village where the violence took place on Sunday, January 20, he said.

The UN source said the perpetrators were believed to be Fulani from the so-called 3R group ("return, reclamation, reconciliation").

3R emerged in western CAR in late 2015 and is led by a man known as Sidiki who claims to be protecting the Peul community – the French term for the Fulani.

"It's Sidiki's forces who shot the people," a local resident told the Ndeke Luka radio station on Tuesday.

The violence occurred just days before a new round of peace talks which begin on Thursday, January 24, in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, involving a government delegation and the heads of CAR's main armed groups.

Sidiki and members of his 3R group left the capital Bangui on Tuesday to attend the long-planned talks in Sudan.

Armed groups control large tracts of territory in the landlocked, often arid nation, where they fight each other for control over land and the country's immense natural resources.

CAR is rich in uranium, gold, diamonds and cattle.

The aim of the Khartoum talks, which are expected to take several weeks, is to bring stability to a nation that collapsed into warfare following a 2013 coup.

The latest conflict in a troubled country has pitted mainly Muslim militias against those drawn largely from Christian communities.

Seven peace deals have been signed in the past 5 years, but none have had any success. – Rappler.com

Central African Republic image via Shutterstock