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Peaks of violence in Bangui. Not to be confused with a religious conflict

Central African flag at half mast in the UN camp in Bangui, for the three days of national mourning declared by the president, after the incidents of May 1 (Credit: MINUSCA)

(B2) After more than a year and a half of calm, the situation seems to have changed significantly in Bangui. The violence continues, without anyone seeming capable of disarming the militias.

On Tuesday, May 1, a church and a mosque suffered collateral damage from the conflict, causing more than twenty deaths in the capital of the Central African Republic.

A blunder that kills 22

It all started with a “trivial” incident Tuesday evening. Central African gendarmes and a group of the “Force” militia clash. The leader of the group, Moussa “Empereur”, was reportedly shot and wounded a few hundred meters from PK5. For the rest, two versions coexist. The police assure that the militia returned to the charge and attacked the gendarmes. From the crisis prevention committee of the 3rd district of Bangui, the gendarmes took refuge in the Fatima church, while mass was in progress. She found herself between two fires. Result: several people killed, including the priest. There followed an outbreak of violence in several parts of the city, targeting Muslims. Two men are burned alive (two Senegalese) and the Lakouanga mosque is destroyed. The crowd was finally dispersed near the presidential palace. At the end of the day, the toll was heavy: 22 people and more than 100 others injured, including two peacekeepers.

The threat from Kaga-Bandoro?

Behind these events, according to President Touadéra, are elements of the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central Africa (FPRC) led by Abdoulaye Hissène. Regrouped for several weeks in Kaga-Bandoro, they threaten to “march on Bangui”. Which is strongly reminiscent of the 2011 coup d'état and worries Central Africans and international actors present in Bangui.

…accelerated by the Russian presence 

A factor accelerating tensions seems to be the increasingly visible presence of the Russians in the CAR. Already, during the April incidents at PK5 (read: Very tense situation in Bangui since Sunday. Several dead, dozens injured) a Russian soldier would have been at the heart of the muscular action carried out in the neighborhood. Moreover, it is Russia's growing military involvement alongside the Central African government which is at the heart of the FPRC's anger. An episode involving Russians almost ignited the situation on Saturday April 28. According to RFI, a Russian plane landed in Kara-Bandoro to try to negotiate with the rebels. On board, three armed white men, quickly suspected of being Russian.

NB: in December 2017, the Kremlin obtained an exemption from the embargo from the UN and therefore authorization to deliver – free of charge – a load of weapons to the CAR. An Ilyushin IL-76MD of the Russian army, registered RF78805, deposited on January 26 and early February, in several trips, approximately 5.000 assault rifles, machine guns, pistols and rocket launchers. With these weapons, 175 Russian instructors settled in Berengo, the former palace of Emperor Bokassa (read: The Russians are training the Central African army instead of the Europeans). Since then, they have become very visible. In particular, they replaced the Rwandan blue helmets to ensure the security of the president and took control of the country's communication systems.

Touadera's call to strengthen MINUSCA

It is in this context of deteriorating security that the President of the CAR, Faustin Touadéra, asked the UN to increase the numbers of MINUSCA during his last appearance before the UN Security Council, on April 24. “ We are once again launching an appeal for the reinforcement of MINUSCA personnel by operational and professional contingents. " The Central African president asks above all that the mission pass from peacekeeping to " the imposition of peace in order to avoid thwarting efforts to consolidate and sustain peace ».

(Leonor Hubaut)


Commentary: Antonio Tajani's misstep

During the mini-plenary session in Brussels last Wednesday (May 2), the European president made a serious misstep. Since his arrival at the perch of the institution, Antonio Tajani has wanted to make foreign policy his instrument to obtain more prestige, for the institution… or for himself (1). Taking advantage of the opening session, the Italian, former European commissioner, confirmed this intention, reviewing several violent acts around the world to condemn them. On the Central African Republic and Bangui, he was verbose, regretting “ the murder of Christians » instead of talking more about the violence. As if the death of Muslims on the same day was unimportant! But, above all, he used the word “genocide”. A word which has a very precise legal definition and cannot be used everywhere. He thus fell into the partisan trap which is not worthy of the position he occupies. In CAR, there is no religious conflict. Some parties use this argument to inflame the debate, but the Central African president has clearly pointed it out: “ Don't fall into the trap of sectarian conflict. »

(LH)

(1) A. Tajani has made no secret of his desire to return to the Italian scene, to occupy a leading position. Unfortunately the defeat of his Forza Italia party deprives him (for the moment) of this position.


 

Leonor Hubaut

© B2 - Bruxelles2 is a French online media that focuses on political Europe (powers, defence, foreign policy, internal security). It follows and analyzes developments in European policy, unvarnished and without concessions. Approved by the CPPAP. Member of SPIIL. Please quote "B2" or "Bruxelles2" in case of recovery Leonor Hubaut is a journalist. Graduated in international relations from the Free University of Brussels (specialization in globalization). She covers for B2 the work of the European Parliament, CSDP missions and African issues. Sahel specialist.

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