The Central African Republic is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the east, the Democratic Republic of Congo to the south, the Republic of the Congo to the southwest and Cameroon to the west. The Central African Republic (CAR) has been unstable since its Independence from France in 1960. It is rich in diamonds, gold, oil and uranium but has one of the world’s poorest population.
It was plunged into turmoil in 2013 when Muslim rebels from the Seleka umbrella group seized power in the majority Christian country. A band of mostly Christian militias, called the anti-balaka, rose up to counter the Seleka.
The Seleka handed power to a transitional government in 2014 under pressure but months of violence followed, and the country was effectively partitioned, despite the presence of a UN force and a French mission. Away from the international spotlight, the Central African Republic’s rural areas are turning into fields of violence as war over territory and livestock hits a highly vulnerable population, with effects increasingly felt in neighboring Chad and Cameroon.
The March 2016 election of President Faustin Archange Touadera brought an initial lull but was followed by more fighting in late 2016 and early 2017 between armed groups including ex-Seleka factions and anti-balaka militias-both controlling vast areas of the country. Lasting peace is still some way off as neither the new government nor the large UN force have the means to force armed groups to negotiate and disarm.
The instability in the Central African Republic (CAR) calls for a serious investigation and analysis of the core issues that plague the country. Poor as the CAR may look to be to the outsider who has not studied the country, the truth is that, it possesses some of the most sought-after natural resources by the imperial powers. The USA, Russia, France and Israel have long set their sights on the diamonds, gold, uranium, and oil which the country possesses.
The remedy to the war in the Central African Republic (CAR) must consider one of the most common drivers of armed conflict in Africa namely, the resource curse. The resource curse is the phenomenon whereby outside forces support dictatorial regimes and or finance and maintain armed conflict to gain access to resources of a given country to the detriment of its citizens.
The conflict in this region must be understood in the context of the ongoing scramble for Africa after European colonisation by the USA/Zionist axis and other imperialist inclined countries such as Russia and China. There is overwhelming evidence which supports the ongoing efforts by imperialist powers to gain political influence in Africa for their own strategic long-term economic interests. It is within this context that we must view and analyse the involvement of Russia. It is an open secret that the USA and France has had their armies in the CAR for quite some time now.
The Moscow Times reported that CAR’s defense minister Marie-Noelle Koyara said that there is a possibility of having a Russian military base in her country. The same source said that Russia already deployed 175 military and civilian instructors to train CAR’s forces.
On February 6, 2019 a peace agreement brokered by Russia was signed between the government of CAR and about 14 armed groups. While there was a lot of optimism around this peace agreement, there is still a lot of doubts as well because many peace agreements have been signed in the past and have eventually failed. The success of this one will ultimately depend on the political will of all stakeholders and outside forces behind them.
Lastly, one decries the absence of our very own African Union (AU) which always fails to protect its children from marauding Lions coming from elsewhere. The AU is a disgrace to say the least. Imagine a foreign power coming into Africa and cutting a deal with what should be an African problem that requires an African solution and the AU is missing from the table?
Dr Mustafa Mheta is a Researcher and Head of the Africa Desk at the Media Review Network based in Johannesburg.