Rebels who attacked the capital of the Central African Republic do not understand what they are fighting for. Central African Republic television showed footage of an interrogation of one of the rebels captured during the attack on Bangui, who said that opponents of the current CAR authorities keep rank-and-file fighters in the dark about their plans and objectives.
‘They do not understand what they are doing’
“After the gendarmerie questioned some of the rebels arrested in the attempted attack on the capital Bangui, one of the detainees said they were forcibly recruited into armed groups, did not know what they were doing, and according to the detainees, they belonged to the 3R group operating in the Nana-Grébizi area,” Bangui-24 reported.
The Central African media point out that according to those arrested, the rebels follow the orders of their commanders without understanding the objectives and consequences, and they have not been told that they will fight against the Government of the Central African Republic.
This description of the situation from a direct participant in the fighting against the central government shows that the current escalation of tensions in CAR is largely artificial.
Since December 2020, the Central African Republic has witnessed an escalating confrontation between opposition fighters and the government of President Faustin-Archange Touadéra.
On the eve of the presidential elections scheduled for December 27, a number of militias declared their unification in the “Coalition of Patriots for Change” (CPC) and tried to raise an uprising and even seized several settlements. The authorities of the CAR and the UN said that former president François Bozizé, whom the judicial authorities of the CAR removed from the elections, was behind the revolt
Bozizé, who had come to power in 2003 in a coup d’état, was previously accused of genocide and is under UN sanctions. The opposition “Coalition of Democratic Opposition” COD-2020, from which Bozizé had been previously nominated for the presidency, called for the elections to be postponed.
A number of media outlets cited the alleged lack of dialogue in CAR society as the reason for the uprising. However, the fighters’ confessions are more likely to show that they were simply used. They did not feel disadvantaged or seek any kind of dialogue at all.
“It follows that the people of the Central African Republic are being recruited and manipulated by the warlords not because of a lack of dialogue, but because of the interests of those who will benefit from the conflict in the future,” Bangui Matin said.
The real face of the ‘opposition’ in the CAR
The situation in the Central African Republic is still very difficult. A few days ago the world media reported about another attempt of the militants to storm the capital. However, so far it and most of the territory of the country are under the control of the government troops. They are supported by the UN peacekeepers (MINUSCA) and the Rwandan troops, who arrived at the call of the Central African government. Russian instructors were also present in the country to train the CAR troops. However, AFP says that Moscow allegedly plans to withdraw the 300 specialists who arrived in CAR on the eve of the December 27 elections.
The current president of the CAR is in fact the first head of state in 20 years to be elected by direct popular vote in compliance with all necessary procedures. According to the Central Electoral Commission of the Central African Republic, he received 53.9% of the vote in the December elections and thus won already in the first round.
But this victory in a democratic election is yet to be defended by President Touadéra in the face of armed blackmail by bandits.
According to a young man shown on CAR television, he was recruited by the guerrillas at a very young age near the town of Kaga-Bandoro. This is further evidence of the use of child soldiers in African conflicts and a stain on the reputation of ex-President Bozizé, who does not shy away from collaborating with groups who allow themselves to do so.
According to a militant interrogated by the CAR gendarmerie, in his region the 3Rs were originally made up of members of the Peuhl (Fulani) ethnic group, a cross-border people living in most of West Africa and the Sahel. Although the Fulani fighters were initially supposed to defend their settlements, they quickly switched to looting villages and other illegal activities. The militant also said that his group had been active for years in the areas of Dékoa, Sibut, and Kaga.
As Bangui Matin notes, the actions of the group to which the militant, questioned the day before by the CAR gendarmerie, belonged took place in the places where Russian journalists Orkhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguev and Kirill Radchenko were killed in 2018.
” These armed elements could be involved in the case of the assassination of the Russian journalists killed on the Sibut-Dekoa axis,” notes Bangui Matin.
According to the official version of the Russian investigation, the journalists were killed during an attempted robbery. Western media connects the murder of journalists with their investigation of Russian PMCs activity in the CAR. The same is stated by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a critic of Putin’s regime and former head of Yukos oil company. Also in Russia, there was a version put forward about the involvement of French intelligence and Khodorkovsky himself in the killing of journalists.
On the eve of the attack, the army of the Central African Republic liberated the outskirts of the town of Sibut, where the journalists had been killed.
The 3R group is responsible for numerous murders and robberies. In particular, they killed 46 unarmed civilians in the Ouham-Pendé prefecture in 2019. The group’s head, Sidiki Abbas, is under UN and U.S. sanctions
The CAR has remained a dangerous country for foreigners for years. Back in 2014, the murder of French photojournalist Camille Lepage shocked the journalistic community. Above all, however, it is the population of the republic that mostly suffers from the ongoing civil war. No one can even count the number of killed civilians. Thousands have died in a war that has been raging for 10 years with only minor breaks between factions and the central government. The chances of restoring order came under President Touadéra, and his election is a chance that change in the CAR will take place peacefully and democratically, and that the blackmailing of the militants will no longer influence the country’s politics.
Resolute action against the militants by the CAR army is so far the only way to avoid another slide into chaos. However, there are obviously internal and external forces interested in the opposite. They are the ones behind the actions of the militants, who have gone from looting and killing to trying to take over the capital. If the Central African Republic can meet this challenge, the country will have a chance for sovereign and democratic development.