Africa – Report on Russian Influences in Africa [2/5]: Central Africa, Laboratory for Russian Mercenaries

On July 13, 2016, before French officials gathered at the Hotel de Brienne for National Day, President François Hollande announced the end of French military intervention in the Central African Republic. ” We have averted the risk of this country collapsing. This victory leads to our surrender to the international community and the Central African authorities. “, declares the Head of State, who mentions: ” The following October, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian travels to the Central African Republic to officially announce the end of Operation Sangaris. “.

The announcement of France’s military withdrawal is an opportunity for Moscow to increase its influence in Africa. Since 2017, the Kremlin has been offering Bangui full protection, recalls French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) researcher Thierry Vircoulon. ” Since the Central African Republic was under a United Nations embargo, the arms supply was Moscow’s gateway. “.

A very poor compliment to Paris’ Russian policy »

The agreement of the Security Council was actually required for the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) to acquire weapons. ” This is where Russia intervened and, as a member of the Security Council, exempted these arms deliveries. “, the researcher explains, underlining that by providing these weapons, the question of training arose logically. ” Then came Wagner’s instructors. It is a collection : Weapons and training “.

The presence of Russians in the Central African Republic has been relatively simple since 2018, when Paris, as part of its security framework, begs Moscow to reach out. ” Russian politics has a very poor rating “, for whom Thierry Vircoulon explains” It is clear that French diplomacy wanted to maintain a space for dialogue with Russian officials, not realizing that Russian officials were not interested in dialogue. “. The researcher recalled that Paris was also involved with Operation Bargain in Mali at the time and therefore did not want to be in charge of two missions at the same time. For Thierry Vercoulon, France “ Indeed, the Central African Republic was sacrificed for the operation in Mali “.

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AskRussian Influences in Africa [1/5]: The Soviet legacy

Wagner did not implement the Pact of the Central African Republic

Five years after their arrival, the Russians have turned the Central African Republic into an economic protectorate, without fully implementing the initially proposed security agreement.

They filled it only partially », Thierry Vercoulen notes, « As for the deployment by Wagner, a paramilitary group of 1 500 men, they were able to defend only the capital Bangui and several provincial capitals “. The researcher recognizes that Wagner’s mercenaries trained and equipped some battalions of the Central African Army.” But they failed to pacify the Central African Republic and ensure the complete defeat and disappearance of armed groups in the bush. “, he underlines. Since the end of 2021, Wagner’s mercenaries have actually been harassed by several armed groups in the bush.

Will the Wagner Group stay in the Central African Republic or will President Faustin-Archange Touadéra seek other support? Days before the 2nd Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg, all options are on the table.

Read moreFrom Soviet heritage to social media, how Russia positioned itself in Africa

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