Central African rebels demand withdrawal of Russian troops

Abdoulaye Hissène, leader of the CNDS, one of the Ex-Séléka Muslim rebel groups in the Central African Republic (CAR), gave the Central African government troops 48 hours to vacate the region.

“Government agents in the territories occupied by the Ex-Séléka groups have 48 hours to leave this region,” Hissène’s press communique warned.

The ultimatum was prompted by the dismissal of the Muslim President of the National Assembly, Karim Meckassoua. Having a Christian president of the country, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, and a Muslim president of the national assembly was intended to help resolve the conflict in the country, TV5Monde writes. Meckassoua’s dismissal caused outrage among the Muslim rebels led by Hissène.

In his communique, Hissène accused President Touadéra of being involved in a conspiracy, with the backing of “mercenaries from Russia”. He also observed that the presence of mercenaries with ties to the Kremlin is a growing threat to democracy in the country.

Hissène’s communique was published by the news outlet Central African Republic News. A copy was also posted on Twitter by Edouard Dropsy, a correspondent who writes for RFI and France 24. The document, which was drafted by the rebels in French, contains numerous grammatical errors.

The ultimatum refers to “Russian mercenaries headed by Valeri Zakarov”. In May, radio RFI reported that President Touadéra had a Russian security adviser by the same name. With Zakarov’s help, Touadéra and his supporters negotiated with members of the Muslim PK5 region of Bangui, the country’s capital.

Later Dropsy and the local news agency Corbeau News published a communique from the political wing of the People’s Front for the Rebirth of the CAR (FPRC), a different Ex-Seleka group. In it, Djafar Adoum, coordinator of the FPRC’s political wing, stated that the FPRC is committed to a peaceful resolution of the disagreements with the CAR government, and called for calm.

On the evening of October 28, official Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told RBC that Hissène’s ultimatum was a fake.

Recently Moscow has been considering the possibility of augmenting its military presence in the CAR, observed Mikhail Bogdanov, Russian Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa, on October 22. Whether or not instructors will be sent “depends on what the country’s government, the legitimate authorities, want”. “So I don’t consider it impossible [that additional Russian instructors will be sent to the CAR]. If more are needed – there will be more,” he stated.

The Russian Defense Ministry’s presence in the CAR was supposed to be legalized on the basis of an agreement to establish an official representative office in the country. On October 9, the draft agreement was ratified by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The stated purpose of the representative office was “to provide the leaders with the activities of Russian military specialists” and “to offer assistance in the construction of the Armed Forces of the CAR”.

  Russia, CAR, Russian Defense Ministry, Africa