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Authorities appeared set to eliminate potential rivals before 2025 elections, while incidents involving explosive device attacks compounded already dire security situation.
Authorities settled scores with potential dissidents and election rivals. Joint patrol of govt forces and Russian paramilitary Wagner Group 3 Jan arrested mayor of Baboua, Caprang Ephraim, and commander of north west defence zone, Col Modoua, in Nana-Mambéré prefecture; detentions may be related to inter-ethnic disputes within military, particularly over control of mineral resources. Court in capital Bangui 17 Jan sentenced in absentia former National Assembly speaker, Karim Meckassoua, to life imprisonment on charges of endangering state security and colluding with Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebels.
President Touadéra continued hazardous push to diversify security partners. Around 150 people from pro-Russian civil society platform Initiative Committee for the Control and Investigation of the U.S. Actions 25 Jan demonstrated in front of U.S. Embassy in Bangui to demand withdrawal of U.S.-based private security company Bancroft Global Development; protest came after presidency in Dec confirmed military cooperation agreement between govt and Bancroft. Wagner’s reaction could turn into something more worrisome if Touadéra is not able to share duties and benefits among security partners.
Security situation marked by resurgence of explosive device attacks. Improvised explosive device (IED), possibly linked to armed group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R), 11 Jan killed three civilians and injured another in Bouar town (Nana-Mambéré prefecture). Another IED 15 Jan killed one UN peacekeeper and wounded another five in Mbindale village (Lim-Pendé prefecture). Meanwhile, Wagner elements 9 Jan attempted to shoot down unidentified object flying over their base in Ndélé town (Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture); local authorities next day imposed curfew and arrested ten civilians. Violent clashes between armed actors took place in various regions. Unity for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) combatants 7 Jan attacked Azandé Ani Kpi Gbé (AAKG) ethnic militia in Obo town (Haut-Mbomou prefecture), resulting in at least three deaths. CPC elements 8 Jan attacked base hosting army and Wagner elements in Kabo town (Ouham-Fafa prefecture); fifteen rebels and four govt soldiers killed, and at least ten civilians wounded.
Rebel groups remained active in northern regions, exposing limits of govt’s strategy of weakening them from top down; battle for influence raged between Russia and U.S.
Northern regions remained subject to armed violence, mainly along Chadian border. Clashes between Russian paramilitary Wagner Group and rebels of Central African Patriotic Movement (MPC) 9 Dec left 30 fighters and one Wagner officer dead in Markounda town (Ouham prefecture); violence, which took place after MPC leader Mahamat Al-Khatim in Nov signed agreement with govt allowing MPC’s return to 2019 Khartoum peace deal, illustrated limits of govt’s strategy of pushing warlords to announce dissolution of their groups in absence of credible way out for militiamen under their command. Drones 10 Dec dropped explosive charges on Wagner’s Kaga-Bandoro base (Nana-Gribizi prefecture), killing four Wagner elements and wounding another 13; alliance of major rebel groups Coalition of Patriots for Change denied responsibility. 3R armed group 21 Dec killed 23 civilians in Nzakoundou village, Lim-Pendé prefecture; UN force 27 Dec announced deployment of peacekeepers to reinforce security in area and facilitate humanitarian access.
Russian govt tightened grip on paramilitary Wagner Group empire in CAR. Unconfirmed rumours circulated in capital Bangui of upcoming departure of Vitali Perfilev, once in charge of Wagner Group military operations in Central African Republic, and his replacement by secret intelligence agent Vladimirovich Denis Pavlov, who arrived in Bangui in Sept. Move would suggest that Russian defence ministry is taking control of paramilitary organisation’s activities in country.
U.S. activism against Wagner sparked tensions. As part of its strategy to reduce Wagner influence in Bangui, Washington continued to negotiate security alternatives. U.S.-based private military company Bancroft Global Development late Dec denied having deployed to Bangui but admitted contacts with President Touadéra’s govt to discuss potential cooperation. Presidency late Dec confirmed govt is working to diversify security partnerships, said U.S. is offering to train soldiers. Recent cases of harassment against U.S. nationals suggest reaction to U.S. activism from pro-Wagner factions in govt. Notably, authorities have arrested at least ten international and private sector American workers in Bangui since Oct.
Govt forces and allies continued to hunt down rebels in several regions, and authorities dismissed UN mission’s call for national dialogue.
Increased rebel activity prompted military to step up presence in hinterland. Between 100 and 150 govt troops 1 Nov deployed to Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture’s capital Ndélé, after around 120 unidentified armed men late Oct took control of nearby Miamani village, killing one soldier and forcing other soldiers and civilians to flee. In Ouham-Fafa prefecture, Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) rebels 2 Nov claimed control of Sido town near Chadian border, with two soldiers and several civilians reportedly killed; military and Russian paramilitary Wagner Group 5 Nov recaptured town, and Wagner plane on search mission in Ouham-Fafa 11 Nov briefly crossed into Chad, prompting N’Djamena to threaten defensive action; CPC 24 Nov once again attacked Sido before leaving next day. After govt and Wagner forces late Oct attacked Central African Patriotic Movement (MPC) armed group and killed about 20 fighters, MPC leader Mahamat Al-Khatim 3 Nov announced leaving CPC and reintegrating 2019 peace agreement with govt.
UN renewed mission’s mandate amid tensions over national dialogue proposal. After UN mission (MINUSCA) late Oct called for new dialogue between govt and both civilian and armed opposition, President Touadéra’s special adviser Fidèle Gouandjika 2 Nov dismissed proposal, claimed it was part of “genocidal plot” hatched by MINUSCA and France to destabilise country. Opposition and armed groups reacted cautiously to MINUSCA’s proposal, with some voicing concern that any such dialogue would legitimise Touadéra-sponsored constitutional referendum held in July. UN Security Council 15 Nov renewed MINUSCA’s mandate for one year until Nov 2024, demonstrating international community’s almost unanimous support for Touadéra despite authoritarian drift.
Intercommunal tensions flared in north west. Muslim trader 8 Nov attacked and killed non-Muslim man following land dispute in Paoua town, Lim-Pendé prefecture; in response, crowd next day set fire to over 20 Muslim houses.
Rebel groups continued low-intensity attacks in hinterland amid military operations by govt forces and allies.
Rebel activity persisted across country despite operations by govt forces and allies. In Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture, alliance of major rebel groups Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) 2 Oct attacked gold mine near Birbatouma village, prompting riposte from military, with fighting reported next day near Ndélé town; govt forces and Russian paramilitary Wagner Group 30 Oct launched search operation in same area. In Haute-Kotto prefecture, reinforced presence of UN mission (MINUSCA) peacekeepers around Ouadda town in Oct led elements of Gen Mohamed Moussa’s Party of the Rally of the Central African Nation and other CPC-affiliated groups to leave Ouadda and relocate further north to Sam-Ouandja area in Vakaga prefecture, while other fighters returned to Bria-Yalinga-Nzacko triangle in southern Haute-Kotto. Meanwhile, as influx of Sudanese refugees toward Am Dafok and Birao towns in Vakaga prefecture continued, armed elements allegedly belonging to paramilitary Rapid Support Forces of Gen Mohamed “Hemedti” Hamdan Dagalo reportedly engaged in opportunistic crimes around Birao.
Agropastoral conflicts continued to claim lives. After herder-farmer violence in Sept affected Miamani area in Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture, several similar incidents reported in Oct in Ouham-Pendé prefecture. Notably, armed Fulani herders 10 Oct clashed with group of armed individuals in Bossemptélé sub-prefecture, and violence 12 Oct broke out between armed herders and residents in Bézéré village, leading to deaths of three soldiers who had been deployed to area; armed elements of CPC-affiliated 3R rebel group late Oct abducted a dozen individuals near Bohong village over accusations of cattle theft. In Lobaye prefecture, transhumant herders armed with assault rifles 22 Oct shot one farmer dead and wounded another.
UN urged Bangui to launch inclusive dialogue ahead of 2024 local elections. Valentine Rugwabiza, UN Special Representative and head of MINUSCA, 26 Oct presented Sec Gen’s report on Central African Republic to UN Security Council ahead of vote on mandate renewal expected in Nov. Rugwabiza highlighted govt’s progress in advancing peace process, and urged Bangui to engage in inclusive dialogue with political opposition and armed groups ahead of local elections scheduled for Oct 2024.
Presidential Guard detained army officers, reflecting widening rifts within army amid series of coups in West and Central Africa; armed group violence continued unabated in hinterland.
Coup in Gabon sparked tensions in Bangui. Amid rumours of imminent coup in Bangui in wake of military overthrow of President Bongo in Gabon, Presidential Guard 10 Sept arrested unknown number of army officers, including Capt. Kamezo-Laï Gilbert and Chief Warrant Officer Kohoté Fabia, both close relatives of diaspora opposition activist Regis Sikangba. Armed forces in following days started identity checks by night on roads of capital Bangui.
President Touadéra proceeded to arrest former rebel leader turned ally. Authorities 4 Sept detained former rebel leader Abdoulaye Hissène, and UN-backed Special Criminal Court 7 Sept charged him with crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in 2017 as one of main leaders of Popular Front for the Renaissance of the Central African Republic. NGO Human Rights Watch next day welcomed move as step toward ending impunity. Many in govt circles however perceived Hissène’s arrest as disloyal move from Touadéra, as Hissène had become govt’s ally since 2019 peace agreement.
Armed groups continued to increase presence in hinterland following referendum. In Nana-Mambéré prefecture (west), govt forces and Russian Wagner Group paramilitaries 2 Sept killed eight 3R rebels in operation 70km from Baoro town; Wagner and 3R elements 10 Sept clashed in Baboua sub-prefecture, leaving one Wagner dead. Attacks by unidentified armed men continued in Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture (north), including ambushes on army checkpoints in Djamassinda and Miaméré villages on 7 and 11 Sept. Rwandan peacekeepers from 26 Aug onward intensified patrols in villages between Mbrès and Koukourou, Nana-Gribizi prefecture (centre), after locals reported increased armed group presence. Meanwhile, UN mission (MINUSCA) 27 Sept announced deployment of peacekeepers in Mboki city, Haut-Mbomou prefecture (east), after Azande Ani Kpi Gbe militia 31 Aug attacked regional peace committee delegation.
In other important developments. As part of unprecedented tour of African countries collaborating with Wagner, Russian Deputy Defence Minister, Col-Gen Yanous Bek Evrourov, 2 Sept met with Touadéra in Bangui. Pursuing diplomatic appeasement initiated since early 2023, French President Macron and Touadéra 13 Sept met in France’s capital Paris.
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