UN Update On Russia’s Military Mission In The Central African Republic

The UN Panel of Experts’ update on the situation in the Central African Republic contains valuable information about the activities of the Russian military mission there.

An extensive report by the UN Panel of Experts on the Central African Republic (CAR) was released at the end of last month and contains valuable information about the activities of the Russian military mission there. The author has been paying very close attention to this angle of the conflict for the past nine months and produced the following analyses about it that should be referenced by the reader if they’re not already familiar with the basics:

 

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15 December, 2017: “Why Does Russia Want To Sell Arms To The Central African Republic?

18 January, 2018: “Russia Might ‘Pivot To Africa’ With ‘Mercenaries’

7 May, 2018: “Russia’s Grand Strategy In Afro-Eurasia (And What Could Go Wrong)

9 June, 2018: “Russia’s Making Some Smart Moves In The Central African Republic

21 July, 2018: “BRICS Summit: Russia’s Return to Africa

1 August, 2018: “Why’d A Former Russian Oligarch Send Journalists To An African War Zone?

1 August, 2018: “Is The Central African Republic Turning Into Mali 2.0?

Up until now, however, details about Russia’s operation in this war-torn but mineral-rich landlocked state were scarce and mostly speculative, but the UN report finally sheds some light on what’s happening there. This piece is broken down into one-sentence summaries that encapsulate the gist of each part where Russia is mentioned (identified through a simple CTRL+F keyword search), followed by the relevant passage and a description of where it was cited within the report.

 

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Russia’s Mission Is UN-Approved And Aimed At Restoring The Military’s Reoperationalization  

“Following relevant exemptions and notifications to the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 2127 (2013) concerning the Central African Republic, the country’s security and armed forces received training and military equipment from the Russian Federation. Coupled with the support of other partners such as the European Union Military Training Mission in the Central African Republic, those efforts are facilitating the reoperationalization of FACA.” – Summary (2/131)

Training Is Conducted In CAR & Neighboring Sudan And Includes Units Of The Presidential Guard

“On 26 December 2017, the Committee received a notification from the Russian Federation regarding the training of Central African defence and security forces, involving 5 military and 170 civilian Russian instructors for a period of one year. The first and second training sessions for FACA and the Presidential Guard in the Sudan and Berengo (Lobaye Prefecture) conducted by Russian instructors were concluded on 31 March and 30 May 2018, respectively. The third training session commenced on 30 May in Berengo. The presence of instructors from the Russian Federation among the Presidential Guard, as observed by the Panel in Berengo on 31 March, was reported to be part of the training exercise.” — Sanctions implementation: arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban; Arms embargo and national security and defence forces; National security and defence forces: training, equipment and deployment; training (7/131)

The Russian Presence Is Scattered Throughout The Country

(rough approximation of the Russian deployments in CAR and the route of the described caravan)

“Russian instructors are currently deployed in Sibut and Bangassou in support of recent FACA deployments.  They were also involved in escorting a convoy transporting materials for the construction of hospitals, which travelled from Am Dafok and through the towns of Birao, Ndélé, Kaga Bandoro, Bria and Bangui between 7 and 26 May 2018. Twenty-four instructors are currently ensuring the security of hospitals donated by the Russian Federation in Bria, and 20 are doing so in Ouadda (Haute-Kotto Prefecture).” – Sanctions implementation: arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban; Arms embargo and national security and defence forces; National security and defence forces: training, equipment and deployment; training (7/131)

 

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Even Low-Level Representatives Of The Security Services Such As Police Forces Are Being Trained

“In Bangui on 12 March 2018, national authorities, with the support of MINUSCA, started the training of the 500 candidates for the police and gendarmerie recruited throughout the country (see S/2017/1023, paras. 14–16). Since April 2018, Russian instructors have also started the training of 160 policemen and 50 gendarmes in Berengo as a precondition for assigning them weapons in view of their deployment.” – Sanctions implementation: arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban; Arms embargo and national security and defence forces; National security and defence forces: training, equipment and deployment; training (7-8/131)

Russian-Assisted FACA Redeployments Are Along The Northwest-To-Southeastern Frontline Vector That Imperfectly Divides The Country’s Christian And Muslim Populations  

(rough approximation of FACA’s redeployments)

“With the support of MINUSCA and sometimes accompanied by Russian instructors, trained FACA personnel have gradually been redeployed in Obo, Paoua, Sibut and Bangassou. While feedback from international partners on the performance of FACA in those locations is quite positive, it must be stressed that FACA currently has insufficient capacity or lacks logistical support for conducting operations without the substantive and constant support of MINUSCA and/or the Russian instructors.” — Sanctions implementation: arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban; Arms embargo and national security and defence forces; National security and defence forces: training, equipment and deployment; Deployment and equipment (8-131)

The Russians Came Under Attack In Bambari In Early June When Passing Through The Town

(rough approximation of Bambari)

“On 10 June 2018, FACA elements, accompanied by Russian instructors passing through Bambari on their way to Bangassou, were attacked by UPC fighters, which resulted in the wounding of two FACA soldiers and a Russian instructor. MINUSCA had to facilitate a meeting between the Russian delegation and the UPC leader Ali Darassa, in Bokolbo on 17 June, to obtain guarantees for the safe passage of the FACA convoy. On 22 June, the FACA convoy reached Bangassou. The incident highlights the capacity of some armed groups to disrupt the deployment of FACA and the extension of State authority. “ – Sanctions implementation: arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban; Arms embargo and national security and defence forces; National security and defence forces: training, equipment and deployment; Deployment and equipment (8-131)

 

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The UN Still Needs To Conduct A Detailed Inspection Of The Russian Arms Stockpile, But Everything That It’s Seen So Far Corresponds To What It’s Supposed To Be

“Between 26 January and 7 February 2018, nine aircraft arrived at M’Poko International Airport in Bangui to deliver weapons and ammunition as part of the military cooperation between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Central African Republic, and as allowed under an exemption by the Committee on 15 December 2017. All parties concerned repeatedly committed to facilitating a detailed inspection of the stockpile stored at Camp de Roux in Bangui, but that has not yet taken place. The few boxes of ammunition and weapons viewed by the Panel and the United Nations Mine Action Service at Camp de Roux and Sibut correspond to the original list submitted to the Committee. On 18 June 2018, the Minister of Defence sent a letter to MINUSCA requesting its assistance in expeditiously organizing an inspection to speed up the detailed verification process (see annex 2.2 and recommendation in para. 119 (a) below).” – Sanctions implementation: arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban; Arms embargo and national security and defence forces; Delivery, inspection and use of exempted weapons and ammunition (8-9/131)

Russia Is Responsibly Accounting For the UN-Approved Distribution Of Weapons To All Elements Of CAR’s Security Services 

“The Russian weapons and ammunition are being gradually distributed to the trained national defence and security forces deployed in Bangui and beyond. Weapons and ammunition have been assigned to elements from the Presidential Guard, FACA, the police, the gendarmerie and the Ministry of Justice. Representatives of the Russian Federation in Bangui gave the Panel a detailed account of the distribution and indicated the precise number of firearms training sessions conducted.” – Sanctions implementation: arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban; Arms embargo and national security and defence forces; Delivery, inspection and use of exempted weapons and ammunition (9/131)

CAR President’s National Security Advisor Is A Russian Who’s Actively Mediating Between The Government And Rebel Groups

“The Government is also engaging with armed groups through the President’s national security adviser, a Russian national appointed as part of the cooperation between the Governments of the Central African Republic and the Russian Federation, who met on several occasions with leaders of armed groups to discuss questions related to, among other things, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, national reconciliation and the sharing of revenues from the exploitation of natural resources among local and national authorities. However, some armed group leaders informed the Panel that they regarded those discussions not as direct talks with the Government, but rather as negotiations with a foreign partner of the Government.” – Political process; African Union Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic and other mediation efforts (11/131)

 

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Russia Denies The Allegations By A Rebel Faction That It’s Bribing Them To Ensure The Safe Transit Of Its Forces Through Areas Under Their Control And Construction Of Hospitals Within Them 

“Some ex-Séléka leaders claim that any activities in areas under their influence must have their agreement. For example, FPRC leaders told the Panel that the transit in May 2018 of the convoy transporting materiel for the construction of hospitals in Bria and Ouadda (see para. 13 above), as part of the cooperation between the Governments of the Central African Republic and the Russian Federation, as well as the provision of security to the convoy by FPRC combatants, had been accepted only in exchange for financial remuneration. Representatives of the Russian Federation denied those allegations and underlined that the only incentive for cooperation by FPRC in allowing the convoy to pass through had been the provision of support to the population through the establishment of hospitals in areas under the armed groups’ control.” – Developments in areas under the influence of ex-Séléka factions; Establishment of parallel administration and taxation structures (19-20/131)

Almost 1000 FACA Soldiers And Elite Presidential Guards Were Successfully Trained By Russia In 6 Months, And Moscow Denies That Any Of Its Nationals Are Guarding President Touadéra

“The first training of personnel of the CAR national defence and security forces by the military (5) and civilian (170) instructors of the Russian Federation, as notified to the Committee on 26 December 2017, was concluded on 31 March 2018. The training took place in the CAR and in the Sudan. During an official ceremony at the training site on 31 March 2018 in Berengo, 65 km southwest of Bangui, 202 FACA soldiers and Presidential Guards demonstrated some of the operational skills acquired during their training. Few days earlier, on 26 March, most of the National defence and security forces trained in the Sudan flew back to the Central African Republic.

 The second training of 200 FACA soldiers and 54 Presidential Guards was conducted in Berengo between 30 March and 30 May 2018. The third training of 400 FACA soldiers and 62 Presidential Guards started in Berengo on 30 May 2018. This brings the total of FACA soldiers and Presidential Guards trained by Russian instructors to approximately 900.

 The presence of instructors from the Russian Federation amidst the Presidential Guard, as observed by the Panel in Berengo on 31 March, was reported to be part of the training exercise. Contrary to the information conveyed by several media sources, the then Head of the training mission of the Russian Federation told the Panel that there was no plan to include Russian nationals in the Presidential Guard or the close protection of the President.” – Annex 2.1: National security and defence forces: training, equipment and deployment; Additional information on the training of FACA by instructors from the Russian Federation (30-31/131)

 

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Russia Shipped The Bulk Of Its Arms To CAR By February, And While Transparently Exported Under Secure Conditions, This Stockpile Still Needs To Undergo A Full UN Inspection Upon Completion

“The first phase of the delivery of weapons and ammunition from the Russian Federation was completed on 7 February 2018. A first aircraft arrived at Bangui M’Poko International Airport on Friday 26 January; two other aircraft arrived during the night from Tuesday 30 to Wednesday 31 January; two aircraft arrived in the night from Thursday 1 February to Friday 2 February; two aircraft arrived in the late afternoon and evening of 5 February 2018; and two aircraft arrived on 7 February 2018.

 The aircraft were unloaded by nationals of the Russian Federation in the military area of the airport, in the presence of the CAR security and armed forces providing perimeter security and, at times, in the presence of EUTM and/or UNMAS staff as well as the Panel of Experts. The Government of the CAR requested and received the support of MINUSCA to escort the weapons from the M’Poko Airport to Camp de Roux. Given that all the flights reached Bangui after sundown, it was not possible to proceed with a proper inspection of the stockpile upon arrival. CAR and Russian officials indicated that, upon completion of the transfer of the exempted materiel, UNMAS and the Panel would have access to the entire stockpile for inspection and accounting. As indicated in paragraph 20 of the report, on 18 June 2018 the Minister of Defence sent a letter to MINUSCA requesting an expeditiously inspection (see below).” – Annex 2.2: The delivery and use of exempted weapons and ammunition; Arms and ammunition from the Russian Federation (33/131)

 

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Each Member Of The Security Services Receiving Russian Weapons Is Personally Responsible For Them Through A Detailed System Of Accountability

“The distribution method of the weapons and ammunition from the Russian Federation is such that each individual recipient will be responsible and accountable for the received weaponry: a form with detailed information (identity picture, number and type of equipment received, serial number of each weapon) is prepared for each individual receiving equipment and signed by the beneficiary.” – Annex 2.2: The delivery and use of exempted weapons and ammunition; Arms and ammunition from the Russian Federation (35/131)

The UN Wants To Optimize Its Inspection And Management Of Exempted Military Equipment Such As The Kind Being Provided By Russia Through The Creation Of A New Bureaucratic Protocol 

“The latest transfer of military equipment from Cameroon, Bulgaria (Chinko project) and the Russian Federation demonstrates the need for MINUSCA, in cooperation with the CAR authorities, to develop a protocol governing the inspection and stockpile management of exempted military equipment.

 The purpose of such an inspection protocol would be to clearly establish the responsibilities and tasks of the (i) CAR security and armed forces, (ii) exporting State or private enterprise, and (iii) MINUSCA. The protocol would also set a standard procedure regarding (a) timely information sharing on the exact time of the arrival of the military equipment and the details of each shipment; (b) security measures to be adopted; (c) transport and verification of the imports; (d) safe storage of the imports; and (e) subsequent inspections and registration of the imports.

 To date, imports of exempted military equipment are processed on an ad hoc basis, which has, at times, resulted in questions by some individuals or entities of the legitimacy of some actions (such as the presence of, and inspection by, MINUSCA staff) and the measures that need to be taken for the purpose of mitigating the possible diversion of imported armaments (such as ensuring the security, inspection and safe storage of weapons and ammunition). The involvement of the newly-established National Commission to Combat the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons would also be essential for ensuring a smooth management of imported armaments.” – Annex 2.2: The delivery and use of exempted weapons and ammunition; Proposal for a protocol governing exempted arms, ammunition and military equipment (38/131)

 

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DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution. 

 


 

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