France suspends aid, military support for Central African Republic

A file picture dated 13 January 2021 shows United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) forces patrol during a respite from fighting where rebel fighters attacked and faced Central African Forces and the UN MINUSCA in the capital Bangui , the Central African Republic. [EPA-EFE/ADRIENNE SURPRENANT]

France has suspended aid and military cooperation in Central African Republic because of what it says is the government’s failure to stop “massive disinformation campaigns” against France that have targeted its officials, the armed forces ministry said.

France has cut €10 million in budget support for its former colony and stopped direct military cooperation, the ministry told Reuters on Tuesday in an email.

“A number of commitments made by the Central African authorities vis-à-vis France have not been kept,” the ministry said, including halting the online campaigns that it says have sought to undermine French influence.

France has nearly 300 soldiers in the country, including those working for a UN peacekeeping mission and a European Union training deployment. The international missions will remain unaffected, but soldiers working directly for the French military will no longer cooperate with Central African Republic’s military, the ministry said.

France has a history of military interventions in its former colony, including during a civil war from 2013-2016 and amid election-related fighting in January.

But a power tussle with Russia over influence in Bangui after Moscow sent hundreds of military instructors to help arm and train government troops to fight rebels groups, has undermined French influence in the gold- and diamond-rich country of 4.7 million.

US calls for transparency as Russians enter Central Africa

The United States on Wednesday (23 December) called for transparency and an end to violence after Russia said it had dispatched 300 military instructors to the Central African Republic ahead of elections.

Before the December election, Facebook said that rival French and Russian disinformation campaigns sought to deceive and influence Internet users, and it suspended almost 500 accounts.

One recent campaign falsely stated that France was planning the move its embassy to Cameroon’s capital Yaounde, said Jean Marc Grosgurin, French Ambassador to the Central African Republic, though he offered the possibility of reconciliation.

“If there are positive and strong signals that are taken, things can be reassessed very quickly,” he said.

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