Why US and Russia are sparring over control of Central Africa Republic

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi, India Published: Dec 24, 2020, 10:30 PM(IST)

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with President of the Central African Republic Faustin Archange Touadéra Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Both US and Russia have their eyes on the Central African Republic, which is a landlocked country that has significant mineral deposits and other resources, such as diamonds, gold, uranium, and graphite, as well as significant quantities of arable land and lumber

The United States of America and Russia are sparring over control of minerally rich Central Africa Republic.

For years, France and the United States maintained a strong presence in the Central African Republic (CAR)—until the end of military operations in 2016 and a withdrawal of forces in 2017. This disengagement turned out to be a major opportunity for Russia, which was seeking to advance its geopolitical and economic interests in the region.

Ever since, the Kremlin has rapidly expanded its influence by propping up CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra with presidential protection, military support, and the creation of a network of political allies to back the embattled leader. In exchange for this support, CAR has surrendered great parts of its sovereignty to pro-Kremlin security emissaries.

Also read: US preparing new sanctions to impede Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline

Both US and Russia have their eyes on the Central African Republic, which is a landlocked country that has significant mineral deposits and other resources, such as diamonds, gold, uranium, and graphite, as well as significant quantities of arable land and lumber.

Russia has sent 300 military instructors to the Central African Republic at the request of the country's leadership to help counter a surge in rebel violence ahead of Sunday's election.

Officials and a security source in the Central African capital Bangui said earlier on Monday that Rwanda and Russia had dispatched troops and supplies.

The 300 Russian instructors coming at the request of Bangui authorities are to provide training to the national army.

They could bolster security forces and over 12,000 United Nations peacekeepers as armed rebel groups, some of whom fought one another in the country's prolonged conflict, have formed an alliance and are threatening to march on the capital.

"We are carefully following the unfolding situation in the Central African Republic," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. "We are seriously concerned that the events of recent days have led to a sharp deterioration in the security situation in this country."

The mineral-rich but deeply impoverished country has struggled to regain stability since 2013 when then-president Francois Bozize was ousted by a rebellion of mainly Muslim Seleka rebels.

The United States on Wednesday called for transparency and an end to violence after Russia said it had dispatched 300 military instructors to the Central African Republic ahead of elections.

"Our position has always been that countries that provide assistance -- military or otherwise -- should do so in a transparent and coordinated way and that this assistance should support the desire of the people of CAR for good governance and stability," a State Department spokesperson said when asked about Russia's role.

The State Department said it "deplores" the rising violence ahead of weekend elections, including rebels' brief seizure of the turbulent nation's fourth-largest town Bambari.

Moscow has led a diplomatic and financial offensive in the deeply troubled nation since 2018 in return for concessions to Russian companies to exploit the country's mineral wealth, especially gold and diamonds.

While the United States has been outspoken in criticizing Russia's role in conflicts in Ukraine, Libya, and Syria, it joined Moscow in a statement on the Central African Republic on Sunday that included former colonial power France.

The statement, also signed by the UN, African Union, European Union, and World Bank, condemned rising violence in CAR and called for free and peaceful elections.

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