France claims Russia not helping to stabilise CAR


Russia’s expanding influence in Central African Republic (CAR), a former French colony, is not likely to stabilise the country, French Defence Minister Florence Parly told weekly Jeune Afrique.

In December last year, Russia obtained the go-ahead from the United Nations’ Security Council to deliver arms to CAR, facing near-constant armed conflict since 2013, when a mostly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition overthrew then-president Francois Bozize, prompting reprisals from Christian ‘anti-balaka’ militias.

Despite electing a new leader in 2016, the country remains mired in tit-for-tat inter-communal violence and political instability.

Earlier this year Russia donated weapons and sent 175 trainers to CAR to bolster government’s fight against militia groups.

Last week it said it planned to send additional equipment and deploy more instructors, escalating its most significant military foray into Africa in decades.

Asked if Russia’s growing influence in CAR was posing a threat to French interests, Parly said: “I will not speak of French interests but of Central African interests”.
“Africa belongs to Africans and no one else, no more to the Russians than the French,” she said.
“Russia asserted its presence in the Central African Republic in recent months, it is true, but I am not sure this presence and the actions by Moscow, like agreements negotiated in Khartoum in August, help to stabilise the country,” she said.

Russia’s foreign ministry defended its actions against what it said was “a certain ‘jealousy'” by other foreign powers over Russia’s role in CAR.

Central African armed groups signed a preliminary agreement at the end of August in Khartoum under the aegis of Russia and Sudan, while the African Union, supported by Paris, oversaw post-crisis negotiations.

France has a military presence in CAR, mainly in the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA.