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Analysis. The first wave did not take the power of the Central African Republic. The attack by the rebels of the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), Wednesday, January 13, came to die in the outlying districts of Bangui, chasing frightened residents from their homes for a few hours. According to the official report, thirty attackers and a peacekeeper were killed.
The strategy of the insurgents who form a coalition of prebendary interests still raises questions. Already masters of more than two-thirds of the territory, do they intend to conquer the Central African capital by arms or tighten the noose around it and toughen the blockade they impose on it? One of their leaders military admits that “Something went wrong, a coordination problem”, but that “Reinforcements are on the move towards the suburbs of Bangui”.
According to a good source, the 3R and UPC groups (Unit for Peace in the Central African Republic) played their part well by attacking respectively on the outskirts of the southwest and north entrances to the city, but the anti-balaka, under the influence of former President François Bozizé, would not have taken action in the neighborhoods that they infiltrated. What to cause the first internal tensions.
To defend the institutions and fight this strange coalition in which yesterday’s enemies and regulars of all the successful or failed coups that the Central African Republic has known since 2003 meet, an equally strange alliance is at work. There are nearly 12,000 peacekeepers, hundreds of Rwandan soldiers deployed in December as part of a bilateral defense agreement signed with the Central African authorities, an unknown number of Russian paramilitaries from Wagner society and, to a lesser extent. measure, France, of which two Mirages have twice gone over the rebel troops.
“A Minusca obsessed with elections”
In the spotlight, Minusca – the United Nations mission – first appeared as the main promoter of the general elections of December 27. About 30 million euros have been invested in their organization, including 20 by the European Union, for a questionable result.
The Head of State Faustin-Archange Touadéra won with 53% of the vote, but more than half of the electorate was deprived of their right to vote due to threats from the rebellion (The Constitutional Court which validated Monday, January 18 the re-election of the president reduced the participation rate from 76 to 35%). Where the elections were held, the sincerity of the scores is questionable, while no polling station has published its results and the number of votes by derogation leaves several electoral experts wary.
Although past experiences have shown that calling a ballot is of no use in getting out of a conflict, “La Minusca has been obsessed with the elections for months and a postponement would have been seen as a failure, decrypts a foreign observer. She put herself in a posture of full support for this process, saying the situation was under control. She trapped herself and now finds herself faced with her only option, which is to collaborate with Russian mercenaries and the government. ”
In the Security Council and in some countries contributing troops, teeth are starting to cringe in front of this association with soldiers of fortune reputed to be close to the Kremlin and the Central African authorities who are stiffening.
Rwandan soldiers and Russian paramilitaries
Moreover, while Bangui intends to take advantage of a future meeting in New York on January 21 to ask “A lifting, even temporary, of the embargo” on arms, donors are annoyed at the lack of resistance from local forces, however restructured by foreign trainers. “In the hinterland, they have all taken refuge in our rights-of-way. Some have deserted even before the first engagement ”, a UN source laments.
A few Central African units took part in the combat, but most of the regime’s defense was left in the hands of Rwandan soldiers and private Russian people. If, for the former, the question of their collaboration with their fellow citizens engaged under the UN banner arises, the questions are even stronger concerning the involvement of Moscow in the Central African crisis.
Russia, which began to invest in this country at the end of 2017, strengthened its presence in December with “300 military instructors”. “Nobody is fooled about their real function but nobody dared to say anything because it was a question of defending the institutions” relates the previously quoted observer. Wednesday, January 13, before the Security Council, Russia announced that it was officially downsizing by repatriating these soldiers and four helicopters that it had deployed to its new African ally.
However, according to several sources, two other helicopters, including an Ecureuil, were left behind, painted white and without registration, and Wagner’s departure is not announced. While suspicions of blunders hang over the Russian paramilitaries in Grimari and in the vicinity of Boda, “The hope of a formalization of the link with Bangui does not seem to be the direction chosen by Moscow”, worries a diplomat.
No geostrategic importance
In this deleterious context, France, which was for a long time all-powerful in its former colony, now seems paralyzed. Accused by circles close to power of secretly supporting the rebellion, Paris has publicly exposed its support for Faustin-Archange Touadéra. Twice, Emmanuel Macron called him to show him his support. Mirages flew over CPC positions.
“France is stuck. She went very far in her support for Touadéra, because she feels that by opposing the authorities she will be kicked out by the Russians and the Chinese, analysis Roland Marchal of the International Research Center. The Central African Republic is an issue where it can only take blows but, having no interest on the spot, it could at least have been able to defend the quality of the electoral process. “
Faced with the arrival of these new actors, the countries of the region, primarily Chad and Congo-Brazzaville, remain discreet, contenting themselves with denouncing the attempts to seize power by force and calling for dialogue between the parties in conflict. Many observers believe, however, that these two influential neighbors, annoyed by too much interference in their home, could ultimately support the rebels against these exogenous elements. The Central African Republic would then become the scene of a real international crisis, a paradox for a country which, in general acceptance, has no geostrategic importance.