The last 47 French soldiers of the logistical mission deployed in the Central African Republic (CAR) left the capital Bangui on Thursday (15 December) following a chill in relations caused by closer ties between Bangui and Moscow.
Most of the 130 soldiers who made up the contingent had left the Central African Republic in recent weeks, the French army said. Former colonial power France sent up to 1,600 troops to help stabilize the country after a coup in 2013 unleashed a civil war along sectarian lines.
The departure of French troops from the former 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. France regularly accuses these paramilitaries of committing abuses against civilians and of having established a regime of “predation” of Central African resources.
Over the last few years, friction has grown between France and CAR over a mounting Russian military presence. In the summer of 2021, Paris decided to suspend its military cooperation with Bangui, judged “complicit” in an anti-French campaign orchestrated by Russia. The CAR describes the Russians as military advisers but France, the UN and others say they are mercenaries from the Kremlin-backed Wagner group, who have been linked with atrocities and looting of resources.
CAR ranks among the poorest and most unstable countries in the world. Swathes of territory lie in the hands of rebel groups that trace their roots to the 2013 conflict.