Wagner’s mercenaries arrive in the Central African Republic ahead of the referendum

BANGUI (Reuters) – Dozens of soldiers from the Russian paramilitary group Wagner have arrived in the Central African Republic to help organize a July 30 constitutional referendum that could allow the president to extend his term, the president said on Monday.

Hundreds of Wagner soldiers left the Central African Republic days after a brief mutiny in Russia led by the group’s founder, Yevgeny Prigogine, raised questions about the future of Wagner’s military and business operations.

The local government had previously said the military movement was part of a rotation of forces, not a withdrawal.

Commenting on the newcomers, spokesman Albert Yaloke Mokpem said, “Every year there is a rotation. Some leave and others arrive with logistics and they do this regularly at all levels, at the level of military and administrative support. “

“They are also here to secure the constitutional referendum,” the spokesman said, refusing to say how many troops had arrived.

However, he acknowledged that dozens of people at the airport in photos circulating on social networks were recently arrived mercenaries.

A senior military official in the Central African Republic told Reuters that hundreds of soldiers had arrived.

The country of some 5.5 million people, rich in gold, diamonds and timber, has struggled to find stability since its independence in 1960.

The Central African Republic descended into chaos in March 2013 when then-president François Bozize was ousted by a coup, triggering a new round of fighting between the many armed groups that control large parts of the region.

Central African President Faustin-Archange Toudera, who was first elected in 2016 and won re-election in 2020, has turned to Russia for help fighting rebel groups.

He is campaigning for a constitutional referendum which, if held, could remove the two-term limit for the presidency and allow him to run for re-election.

(Reporting by Judicael Yongo, Writing by Bette Felix; French edition by Lina Golovnya, Editing by Kate Entringer)

Add a Comment