The remedy to the war in Central African Republic must take into account one of the most common drivers of armed conflicts in Africa namely the resource curse. The resource curse is the phenomenon whereby outside forces support dictatorial regimes and or finance and maintain armed conflicts to gain access to resources of a given country to the detriment of its citizens. Despite being blessed with abundant natural resources such as gold, timber, uranium, diamonds and even oil, the Central African Republic is very poor with an extremely low GDP per capita. However, being poor does not mean being violent. If this is true then who is behind the war and why? Because for rebel groups to fight for a decade it must have a supply chain of arms and ammunition.
What is going on in Central African Republic must be understood in the context of the on going scramble for Africa after European colonization. There is overwhelming evidence which supports the ongoing efforts by foreign countries to gain political influence in Africa for their own strategic long term economic interests. It is within this context that we must view and analyze the involvement of Russia in CAR where the US and France have already been for sometime now.
It was reported by Al Jazeera that in 2017, President Faustin-Archange Touadera of CAR reached out to Russian President Vladimir Putin “on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting asking for help”. This raised a lot of concerns about Russia exploiting the struggling nation for their resources with the obvious potential of intensifying the conflict. In response to this President Putin said, “My job is to deal with national security, I help restore the army, police and all sorts of questions regarding national security”. On January 10, 2019, The Moscow Times reported that CAR’s defense minister Marie-Noëlle 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.
We also know that French and U.S armies are involved in CAR. Thus, it is important to watch how the struggle for influence between the three powers will play out going forward. It is imperative, however, that the people of CAR remain vigilant about this combination of forces in this time of political instability in their nation. Any policy prescription to the conflict in CAR must take into account these dynamics.
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 the stakeholders and also outside forces behind them.
Learn more
Shadow War in the Sahara
America’s shadow war in Africa
Russia in Africa: Inside a military training centre in CAR
Central African Republic: why is a rich country so poor?