Several countries of the Central African region appeared on the brink of complete dissolution at once - not surprisingly, that Russia, which is situated very far from the Equator, has had a hand in this.
Actually, in the second half of the XIX century, when “white master” from Europe had come to rule in impudent manner, different parts of African continent remained approximately at the same development level. Africa was one of the most desirable parts of “colonial pie” the German Empire had not managed to bite - the issue which had become one of the important reasons of the World War I. Even Poland, when barely restored its sovereignty in 1918, had a claim on its own colony on Madagascar peninsula in the Eastern Africa region. Namely, almost all European countries desperately desired to seize the wealth of the “dark continent” and they were extremely rigid to leave it in the second half of the XX century, though, they did, each in different way.
For instance, the British Empire deliberately educated local authorities in subordinated colonies. The authorities were greatly loyal to London, complied with all instructions and, as a result, turned out to be able to undertake ruling functions and prevent economical crises and civil wars to unfold in the countries.
In the colonies which were governed by the Kingdom of Belgium or the French Republic, for instance, local administrations did not collaborate with indigenous elites. Consequently, when became sovereign de jure, the former colonies kept the high dependence on metropolises and could not overcome permanent crisis for many decades. Today, for a number of reasons, the gap between the development levels of African countries is enormous: the different consequences of the colonial past, the degree of effectiveness of UN programs (food, medicine, etc.), the level of investment, climate factors and the current policies of the world powers. While former metropolises, such as France and Portugal, take every effort to minimize the negative consequences of their imperial past, the two modern neo-imperial powers – Russia and China – actively pursue neocolonialist policies in Africa.
Moscow and Beijing behave themselves very aggressively on the “dark continent”, though, in their own manners. Chinese businessmen buy everything in Africa what is supposed to be sold and invest large funds wherever it is possible. Moreover, in some African countries Chinese developers are building residential areas, small residential districts and even cities, not only where the necessity is caused by demand, but for long-term prospect! And China is not afraid to lose huge investments allocated for the development of useless infrastructure. The most important for PRC is at any cost to stake out as much as possible sites across Africa for spreading the influence. At the same time, neither Beijing nor Chinese developers meddle in wars, civil conflicts and internal political conflicts on the “dark continent”. PRC gains a foothold in Africa with a help of economic expansion.
In contrast to China, the Russian Federation participates in the politico-military activities. Russian private military companies (Wagner Group and others), military trainers and political consultants operate in 10 countries in Africa. Basically, they protect deposits, mines and quarries, where the extraction of mineral resources takes place. For their work they receive a percentage of sales of natural wealth or take a field as concession. Also, Russian PMCs protect high-ranked politicians, improve the skills of local special forces, train new recruits for the local army, and take direct part in combat operations.
Delegated by the Kremlin, political advisors try to get much closer to presidents, ministers and generals. For instance, the former officer of Russian security services Valeriy Zakharov has become a home security advisor of the President of Central African Republic Faustin Archange Touadera (he won the elections in 2016, and did it second time on the 27th of December 2020, thus, was blamed of large-scale fraud).
The politicians of CAR claim Zakharov sticks his nose in all important state issues. In March 2021, the parliament was going to proceed a vote of censure for Touadera because of unacceptable situation when the country is, de facto, ruled by presidential advisor from far away Russia.
Mankeur Ndiaye, who has been serving as Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and the head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) since 2019, tried to change the situation. On March 31 this year, Mankeur Ndiaye arrived in Moscow with a request to respond to the facts of V. Zakharov’s unlimited power and the atrocities which Russian PMCs in the CAR are guilty of: mass extrajudicial executions, hostage, tortures, rape, abduction, forced displacement of local citizens, shelling of civilian objects and sacred establishments, attacks on the members of humanitarian missions.
Apparently, when heard these complaints, Russian diplomats were barely able to hide smirks, however, as the head of MINUSCA stated, Moscow agreed to carry the investigation jointly with the UN into the atrocities of Russian PMCs in CAR.
In a response, V.Zakharov assured on his Twitter account that he contacted Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and did not face any punishments or penalties, which can be the truth as officially V.Zakharov resides in the capital of CAR Bangui as a private individual (not as a member of the embassy of Russian Federation). After that V.Zakharov activated the Civil Society Working Group on the Crisis in CAR (GTSC) which blamed Mankeur Ndiaye of “complicity with the rebels”. Moreover, the protests were held in CAR where people demanded to suspend Ndiaye from the work in MINUSCA. As a result, during all of April Mankeur Ndiaye had been trying to explain the situation by phone to different politicians - from France to Senegal. Considering the fact that he had already begun to fear seriously for his personal safety, the UN Secretary General issued a special communiqué to confirm the UN’s support for Ndiaye. In addition, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has officially expressed alarm at the increasing use of private military companies by the CAR’s leadership to retain power in the country.
In fact, Russian advisor V.Zakharov keeps making unprecedented influence on the leadership of CAR, the government controls local NGOs, the degree of influence of MINUSCA is extremely limited, and nobody in the country is able to confirm on paper the atrocities of Russian mercenaries.
The last hope of those CAR’s politicians who are not enthusiastic about Russian presence is the participation of international organizations and independent players – the African Union, Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal and Rwanda.