It is a reminder, first of all, of the volatility of the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR): the Central African authorities announced the deaths of three Russian paramilitaries and two Central African police officers on May 27 after an explosion occurred as they passed by. convoy, in the west of the country. The Russian ambassador in Bangui confirmed that he had been informed by the Central African authorities of the death of three “Instructors” Russian after the explosion of a « mine ».
The Russians, saviors of Touadéra
An indication, too, of the evolution of this eight-year-old civil war in which the rebels of the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC, formed by the six most powerful armed groups in RCA) are now trying to overthrow President Faustin-Archange Touadéra: the use of mines or improvised explosive devices, hitherto extremely rare in the country, has increased in recent weeks and has, according to the UN, caused the death of at minus eleven people in the northwest of the country.
→ CONTEXT. In the Central African Republic, the rebellion folds but does not give in
These indirect attacks occur a few weeks after the end of a counter-offensive by the Central African army supported by a Russian ally, which has become indispensable. “The Russians saved the election [présidentielle de décembre 2020] and now secure power with the Rwandans ” explains Thierry Vircoulon, associate researcher at the French Institute of International Relations.
Moscow has in fact maintained, since 2018, in the Central African Republic a contingent of paramilitaries officially engaged in the training of the Central African army. Between 800 and 2,000 men, deployed alongside the 15,000 UN peacekeeping troops, and drawn in part from the Wagner group, a military company controlled by the Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigojine. Several surveys have also revealed in recent years how Moscow’s support for the Central African authorities has been coupled with privileged access to the country’s mineral resources for organizations linked to Evgueni Prigojine.
→ DEBATE. Is the Central African Republic entering a new war?
Paris on the sidelines
But these Russian mercenaries have also played a leading role in supporting Faustin-Archange Touadéra for several months: after repelling an attack by rebel groups on Bangui with Rwandan troops on Bangui a few days before the presidential election in December, they were are engaged with the Central African army in a major counter-attack from January. A direct participation in the conflict denied by Moscow but which, according to a UN group of experts, gave rise to testimonies indicating “Mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions, torture during interrogations, enforced disappearances” attributable to Russian mercenaries. Without Bangui calling their presence into question.
→ MAINTENANCE. Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga: “God has not forgotten the Central Africans”
“If Russia continues to project its diplomatic influence in the Central African Republic and establishes a military base in the country, as Touadéra has requested, Moscow could capitalize on the vacuum left by the United States in the country and represent an equal challenge. more important to French influence in the region ” wrote in February the researcher Samuel Ramani in a note published by the British think tank « Royal United Services Institute ».
The continued strengthening of Russian influence in the region is in fact arousing growing annoyance in Paris, which has also accused the Kremlin of piloting an anti-French propaganda operation in the region. In an interview with Sunday Newspaper, President Emmanuel Macron thus described on May 30 a Central African president “Hostage of the Wagner group”. « To be hostage, it must be against his will, points out Thierry Vircoulon. Touadéra is completely consenting. “