Franco-Russian game in Central African Republic?

Central African Republic

French and Russian military networks are backing rival forces to influence upcoming elections in Central African Republic according to a new report by The Sentry, a Washington-based NGO co-founded by Hollywood actor George Clooney. France used to call the shots in CAR, its former colony, but President Faustin-Archange Touadéra has allied himself to Russia and availed himself of the Wagner Group, a shadowy mercenary organization linked to Vladimir Putin. The Sentry claims France now supports a rebel coalition that opposes Touadéra—who is standing for a second term in December—though the French foreign ministry denies the accusation. All of this spells bad news for ordinary Central Africans, who have suffered under rebel groups for years. More than one in four are currently internally displaced or living as refugees in neighboring countries.

From The New Humanitarian, Oct. 23

Note: The CAR faced internal war from 2013 to the February 2019 Khartoum Accord, after several other peace deals failed. But The Sentry report asserts that foreign aid supplied in the name of implementing the Khartoum Accord has been used by corrupt politicians to build new militias. The armed groups now opposing Touadéra include the Democratic Front of the Central African People (FDPC) and Popular Front for the Rebirth of the Central African Republic (FPRC), formerly a part of the northern and mainly Muslim Séléka rebel alliance.

Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection

  1. Central African Republic elections held amid ongoing unrest

    The Central African Republic (CAR) held presidential and legislative elections Sunday amid fears of unrest and controversy. Despite threats of violence by rebel groups, citizens turned out in significant numbers.

    The incumbent President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, seeking a second term, is favored to win. Touadéra has advocated demobilizing armed groups and incentivizing international investment. He has accused his predecessor, François Bozizé, of conspiring with armed rebel groups in order to reduce voter turnout and lead a coup.

    A total of 16 candidates, including three women, are running for president. If none of the candidates receives more than 50% of the vote, a second election will take place Feb. 14.

    The weeks leading up to the election have been marked by reports of gunfire in neighborhoods, skirmishes between rebel groups and security forces, and incidents against humanitarian workers, including the killing of three UN peacekeepers. More than 55,000 people have fled their homes due to an upsurge in violence.

    Bozizé, a rebel leader and former army commander, seized power in CAR in 2003, and fled a decade later amid clashes with another rebel coalition. Facing an international arrest warrant for crimes against humanity, he returned to CAR in 2019 but is barred from standing for president by a Constitutional Court ruling.

    If the election turnout proves to be low, Bozizé may try to use that as evidence that the polls were not legitimate. The results are expected to be tallied by Jan. 4. (Jurist)