UPDATE: On December 19, Russia reportedly deployed reinforcement to Central African Republic.
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A wave of attacks is sweeping across the Central African Republic (CAR) as presidential elections approach. The UN peacekeeping forces were deployed in the Western part of the country, while the CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra is guarded by Russian private military contractors.
On December 19, three major rebel groups announced the forging of a coalition ahead of upcoming elections on December 27. As for now, the new coalition consists of “la Coalition 3R”, “Anti-Balaka Ngaison”, MPC groups, which retain control over large areas of the country.
The rebel groups claimed the decision “to combine all movements into a single entity, called the Coalition of Patriots for Change or CPC, under a unified command.”
All opposition groups were invited to join the Coalition. The CPC called on its members to respect the integrity of the civilians, the United Nations forces and humanitarian groups.
However, the claims from CPC did not prevent tensions in the west of the country, in the area of Bangui, the CAR capital town. The government accused former president Francois Bozizé of attempting a coup.
About 9,000 militants of a new coalition reportedly began to capture key cities near Bangui. According to humanitarian and UN sources, armed groups seized several villages along routes, threatening the capital by a blockade. The battalion of heavily armed rebels is believed to be under the command of former CAR President Francois Bozizé.
After fierce clashes, Fulani rebels, that are mainly presented in the northern parts of the country, allegedly captured the town of Ucole from the Central African Armed Forces (FACA). Fulani militants attacked the town of Ucole on December 19 morning, forcing FACA soldiers to retreat after heavy fighting.
Meanwhile, the local sources reported that armed militias captured the city of Gallo in the north-west of the country on Saturday night. The town, which lies near the Cameroon border, was taken under rebels’ control without resistance.
The rebel groups are currently conducting their offensive on other cities in the north-west of the CAR. The police and army units prefer not to engage in clashes and are withdrawing towards the capital.
On December 18, the UN mission in the CAR, MINUSCA, said that its blue helmet forces were on “maximum alert”. UN peacekeepers were deployed at the towns of Bosemptele and Bossembele, following an offensive by the 3R, Patriotic Movement for Central Africa (MPC), and “anti-Balaka” militias. MINUSCA has 11,500 peacekeepers in the CAR.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for all sides to “urgently cease hostile actions” in the CAR to prevent armed groups from disrupting the elections.
“The mission emphasizes that these coordinated attacks in well-identified areas involve a deliberate attempt to disrupt the elections,” MINUSCA statement reads.
However, it seems that the UN peacekeepers do not manage to maintain order in the CAR by their own forces.
The videos from the area unveil that the UN peacekeeping forces are accompanied by military contractors without any distinguishing signs. They are believed to be Russian PMCs.
Russian PMCs assure the security of the CAR President during his field visit of a security check around the capital Bangui and its peripheral territories.
On December 1, Russian PMCs were spotted handling the security of Faustin-Archange Touadéra and many other officials of the CAR during a military parade in honor of the Republic Day that was held in Bangui.
Moscow is actively supporting the current administration in the CAR both military and politically. On December 19, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov held a telephone conversation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Affairs of Central Africans Abroad of the CAR, Sylvie Baipo Temon.
“The Russian side confirmed its unwavering position in support of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the CAR, as well as the efforts of its government to ensure the security and stability of the republic,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The CAR drown into conflict in 2013, when then-president François Bozizé was ousted by the Seleka, a rebel coalition drawn largely from the Muslim minority. The coup triggered a bloodbath between the Seleka and so-called “anti-Balaka” self-defence forces, mainly Christian and animist. To date, the confrontation between the Muslim union “Seleka” and the Christian militia units “Anti-Balaka”continues.
In 2016, the country’s leadership was headed by former Prime Minister Faustin-Arcange Touadera, who stressed his neutral position to both “Seleka” and “Anti-Balaka”.
At the beginning of 2018, Russia responded to the request of the CAR authorities for military-technical assistance. Under the UN coordination, Moscow sent a batch of arms and ammunition to the CAR. It also sent the military instructors to train local military personnel.
The Russian “instructors” were mainly located near mineral deposits, including gold, diamonds and uranium, which the African Republic is rich in. Providing significant support to the local authorities, Russia is pursuing both its economic interests and a new strategy of presence in East and Central Africa.
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