Russian activities in Central Africa Republic
In Central Africa Republic (CAR) Russia is helping the national leadership establish control in one of Africa’s most volatile countries – at least, it is what the two parties say. But reports suggest otherwise, as news of rape, death, and harassment trail presence of the Russians said to be in CAR for sinister purposes.
Recent news on the activities of Russia in CAR also brings into light draconian military drills perhaps obtainable in North Korea. On the 13th of May 2019, a family from Dirgba, a village close to Berengo, was the victim of the aggressive behaviour or Russian contractors under the influence of alcohol.
Those Russian citizens, calling themselves “Ricko”, “Chamane” and “Djicki”, wasted their afternoon drinking palm wine in a bush around the village.
The 16 years old victim, Isabelle Gadjie was raped by them and in the same evening during a skirmish between drunken Russians, “Djicki” was the victim of a grenade explosion that hurt him at his right leg. The victim, her father and the gendarmes wanted to hear the suspects the day after but were refused the access to the camp by the director of the military training base. Since, this file is pending, the perpetrators not being faced with the justice.
Similarly, the training methods for the young CAR recruits by the Russians at the Berengo imperial camp are questioned as well and raise controversy. The Russian officers show themselves very tough with the young military men, giving blows or isolated them in holes dug specially to humiliate them, particularly when an order is not strictly obeyed or simply not understood.
Daily food rations are also reduced to the minimum (1 chicken for 12 soldiers) and are increased for the recruits that use only the Russian language. On November the 15th, those methods entailed the death of a young recruit and a badly injured one following a sportive session so-called “resistance”, developed by the Russians trainers.
This death by the Russian side, the body was quickly and discreetly sent to the hospital at Bangui. An out-crying movement within the young soldiers following the death of their classmate quickly came up against the heavy hand of the trainers.
Russia’s involvement in CAR came as a surprise to many considering it was President Faustin-Archange Touadera who met the Russian President Vladimir Putin for assistance at a UN General Assembly meeting in 2017. On account of human rights abuse by the Central African Armed Forces (FACA), CAR has since 2013 been placed a U.N. arms embargo.
Hence, CAR had to seek approval of a U.N. Security Council special committee, made up of the Council’s 15 members, including France and Russia before it could buy weapons and the arrangement severely limited CAR’s ability to respond to the uprising in the country.
France’s presence in the country brought much-needed military and technical support. However, in 2016, the French Operation Sangaris was brought to an end and the European power withdrew its troops- 2,000 ‘Peace Keepers’ in the same period where CAR saw fresh spate of violence.
France said it would leave 350 soldiers behind to support CAR army, and that it had succeeded in helping the former colony douse tensions that arose after a rebellion group overthrew Francois Bozize, CAR’s former president. In 2017, CAR was overwhelmed by the rebels and asked for help.
According to Reuters citing a Security Council memo and four diplomats, France first offered to help CAR buy old weapons but the proposal was too expensive. France then offered 1,400 AK47 assault rifles it had seized off Somalia in 2016. Sources told Reuters that Russia objected on the grounds that weapons seized for breaching the U.N. arms embargo on Somalia could not be recycled for use in another country under embargo.
But mindful of the need for a quick solution, the sanctions committee approved Moscow’s donation of AK47s, sniper rifles, machineguns and grenade launchers in December, according to committee documents and diplomats, the report read.
The stage was set for the Russia-CAR affair which has been said to be for Russia, an opportunity to pursue its global agenda using Africa as a stepping-stone to weaken U.S. and much of the West’s influence.
Russia, now in agreement with the CAR government, would offer training, weapons and “advisory services” to the government.
But it wasn’t just the conflict alone Russia was going to exploit to promote its agenda. There was gold, diamond and mercenaries that could secure Russia’s place and put the icing on the cake for the Kremlin in CAR.
At the end of august 2019, one of the Russian contractors called “MELKINOV” in the imperial camp at Berengo raped a 17-yrs-old girl in the village. This last one is now said to be pregnant. Informed of this affair, the CAR president security advisor, Valerii ZAKHAROV (Russian), ordered all the Russian elements in CAR to withhold this information, especially to French people, to the international community representatives and to the journalists.
Helping establish peace might have been a part of the contract Russia must have glossed over, considering complaints of aggressive and hostile behaviour of Russian personnel in CAR. Talks about Russia-CAR being a conspiracy theory or anti-Russian fell on its face when three Russian journalists who were investigating possible corruption by the Wagner Group, Russian private security company, wound up dead.
Recently documents were published by the Guardian showing official documents that mapped out inroads in Africa for Russia to exploit in promoting its goal to becoming global superpower. According to the Guardian last year, “Russia is seeking to bolster its presence in at least 13 countries across Africa by building relations with existing rulers, striking military deals, and grooming a new generation of “leaders” and undercover “agents”.
Russia is recently held its first African Summit, one where security experts say Moscow made deliberate and covert attempts to steal personal information from African Head of States.
Adio is a social commentator, writes from Lagos