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More than 1,000 Central African military personnel trained by Russia

Second delivery of Russian arms and ammunition is "in preparation," ambassador says

Central African Republic President Faustin Archange Touadera presided over a ceremony to mark the completion of training of the fourth group of Central African Armed Forces (FACa) personnel by Russian instructors on Monday, September 17.

According to a report by the Network of Journalists for Human Rights in Central African Republic (RJDH), 154 FACa personnel completed the training programme, bringing to 1,054 the total number trained by Russians.

Russian advisors work with the CAR’s military and provide security and advice to Touadera.

Speaking at the ceremony, Touadera said that the deployment of the newly trained soldiers will be carried out jointly with the United Nations mission Minusca because they set the same strategy, the CAR Presidency said in a Facebook post.

Touadera said that the Russian instructors teach soldiers how to use Russian weapons, after training provided by the European Union Training Mission in Central African Republic. He said that CAR “is still under embargo, and the lifting of the embargo begins with the EUTM training.”

“Those who have been trained must undergo weapons training so that we have the opportunity to deploy them on the ground,” he said.

FACa personnel are “requested everywhere by the population, so gradually, we will deploy them, but in conjunction with Minusca,” he said. “We have already established a deployment plan with Minusca.”

“I am very happy that they will contribute to the protection of the population, help Minusca to fulfill its mission and help restore peace in our country,” Touadera said.

Central African Republic troops parade
Central African Republic troops parade at a ceremony to mark the completion of training of the latest group of CAR’s armed forces by Russian advisors, September 17, 2018. Image: Renaissance.cf/Facebook

On August 8, more than 600 officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers completed a six-month training program under the EUTM-RCA.

Portugal’s Brigadier Herminio Maio, Commander of EUTM-RCA said that, since 2015, more than 3,000 men and women have been trained or validated by the EUTM, and 232 ex-combatants were trained and integrated into the FACa.

This E.U. Military Mission is made up of soldiers from 11 countries – Portugal, France, Georgia, Romania, Sweden, Spain, Serbia, Italy, Poland, Lithuania and Bosnia. Herzegovina – who train FACa personnel in range of areas including marksmanship, tactics and international humanitarian law.

CAR President Touadera with Russian Ambassador Sergey Lebanov
Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera with Russian Ambassador Sergey Lebanov at a ceremony to mark the completion of training of the latest group of CAR’s armed forces by Russian advisors, September 17, 2018. Image: Renaissance.cf/Facebook

Russian ambassador Lebanov says new arms shipment being prepared

Speaking at the ceremony on Monday, Russia’s Ambassador to CAR Sergey Lebanov said that the training program reflects Russia’s aim to help the CAR reform its defense and internal security forces.

Lebanov noted that the recent signing of a defense agreement between Russia and CAR offered the possibility for Central African officers and NCOs to be trained in Russian military schools.

He said that the relationship between Russia and CAR should not be limited to military cooperation, and the two states should also strengthen economic, humanitarian and political dialogue.

Lebanov said that a second shipment of Russian arms and ammunition “is in preparation,” and will be delivered once it has been approved by the U.N. Security Council.

A U.N. arms embargo imposed in 2013 was last year lifted by the Security Council to allow delivery of Russian weapons for CAR’s armed forces.

The U.N. Security Council in January unanimously extended its sanctions against CAR until January 31, 2019.

France, Belgium, China and the United States have also recently supplied equipment for CAR’s military.

In July, the European Union extended its military training mission in the Central African Republic until 2020, pledging €25 million ($29 million) to help reform the country’s defense sector. The scope of the EUTM RCA mission has also been modified to give strategic advice to the president’s cabinet, interior ministry and police, as well as the military.

in June, the E.U.’s diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini proposed a new €10.5 billion ($12.4 billion) “peace facility” that could pay for military equipment, including lethal weaponry, for partner countries in crisis zones such as the Central African Republic and Africa’s Sahel region.

Central African Republic troops give a demonstration
Central African Republic troops give a demonstration of their skills at a ceremony to mark the completion of training of the latest group of CAR’s armed forces by Russian advisors, September 17, 2018. Image: Renaissance.cf/Facebook

A country divided

Despite reserves of diamonds, gold, uranium, copper and iron, Central African Republic is one of the world’s poorest countries.

The majority-Christian country descended into violence following the 2013 ousting of President Francois Bozize in 2013 by the Seleka, a coalition of mainly Muslim rebel groups.

Seleka was officially disbanded within months, but many fighters refused to disarm, becoming known as ex-Seleka. Many others joined the mainly Christian anti-Balaka militia to fight the Seleka, leading to a spiral of violence between groups along both religious and ethnic lines.

By the end of 2014, the country was de facto partitioned – anti-Balaka in the southwest and ex-Seleka in the northeast.

Violence by both sides led to thousands of deaths. Nearly 700,000 people are displaced, 570,000 have fled the country and 2.5 million are in need of humanitarian aid, according to the U.N.

Touadera’s weak government controls around a fifth of the country and relies heavily on the United Nations peacekeeping mission, Minusca, for support. The rest is controlled by at least 14 different militia groups who often fight each other for control of revenue from extortion, roadblocks or mineral resources.

In April, Touadera said he wants to “accelerate” the disarmament of members of armed groups in Central African Republic, calling for more peacekeepers to be deployed, and for the U.N.’s Minusca mission to transition from peacekeeping to peace enforcement.

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