Sudden Russian interest in the resource-rich Central African Republic (CAR—the former French colony of Oubangui-Chari) has raised questions regarding Moscow's intentions in the violence-plagued nation (see EDM, April 30).
As much as 80 percent of the CAR is not under government control. A new burst of violence earlier this month included attacks on churches and mosques, resulting in 19 dead and over 100 wounded (News24.com, May 3). Thousands have been killed and nearly half a million people displaced since 2013. Fighting has escalated since the French ended a three-year military mission (Operation Sangaris) in October 2016. The operation, the seventh French military intervention in the CAR, ended amidst accusations of sexual violence by French troops, though Paris pledged to keep 350 soldiers inside the CAR as a "tactical reserve" while remaining ready to intervene with a larger force "at very short notice" (France24.com, Deutsche Welle, October 31, 2016). Responsibility for security was turned over to the Mission multidimensionnelle intégrée des nations unies pour la stabilisation en Centrafrique (MINUSCA), a 13,000-man United Nations peacekeeping mission, which has struggled to restore order while being accused of large-scale sexual abuse of local women.