Last French soldiers leave Central African Republic

The last French soldiers deployed in the Central African Republic left the capital Bangui on Thursday at midday, an AFP journalist noted.

The last 47 French soldiers of the logistical mission (MISLOG-B) took off from Bangui airport at around 12.15pm (11.15am GMT), aboard a C130 cargo plane. Most of the 130 soldiers who made up the contingent had left the Central African Republic in recent weeks, the French army said.

The departure of French troops from the French colony comes almost four months after the exit of French troops from Mali, at the end of the divorce consummated between Paris and the authorities in Bamako, which has also chosen to use the services of Russian instructors to help secure the country. 

“In 2021, when the presence of the private military company Wagner was increasingly intrusive in the country, France considered that the conditions were no longer met for us to continue working for the Central African armed forces,” General François-Xavier Mabin, commander of French forces in Gabon, told AFP.

In the summer of 2021, Paris decided to suspend its military cooperation with Bangui, judged “complicit” in an anti-French campaign orchestrated by Russia. France regularly accuses these paramilitaries of committing abuses against civilians and of having established a regime of “predation” of Central African resources.

One of the poorest countries in the world, the Central African Republic has been torn apart by yet another civil war since 2013, when a coalition of armed groups with a Muslim majority, the Séléka, overthrew President François Bozizé. The latter then organised and armed so-called anti-Balaka militias, which are mainly Christian and animist, to try to regain power.

France, a former colonial power, deployed more than 1,000 soldiers to the Central African Republic in 2013 as part of Operation Sangaris, with a green light from the UN, to put an end to inter-community violence. Sangaris, which included up to 1,600 troops, lasted until 2016.

The conflict in the Central African Republic, which has been extremely deadly for civilians, peaked in 2018 and then subsided, and both Séléka and anti-balaka have been accused by the UN of committing numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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