The Central African Republic has asked the United Nations Security Council to approve deliveries of Chinese-made armored vehicles, machine guns, tear gas grenades and other weaponry for its struggling army and police.
Defence Minister Marie-Noelle Koyara requested an exemption to an arms embargo, arguing that national forces are “confronted with the strength and escalating violence of armed groups whose illegal activities pose a threat to civil order,” according to the request obtained by AFP on Monday, June 11.
RFI had earlier reported that an 11-page document signed by Koyara was received by the Vice-President of the Sanctions Committee on June 5.
The council imposed an arms embargo on Central African Republic in 2013 when the country descended into bloodshed but its sanctions committee last year allowed Russia to supply weapons to the country’s forces. The Security Council in January unanimously extended its sanctions against CAR until January 31, 2019.
Council members have until 3 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Thursday to raise objections to the request for the shipments from China, according to a letter from the sanction committee’s vice-chair.
China is donating the military equipment which includes 12 armored vehicles and four assault vehicles, 50 pistols, six sniper rifles, 10 submachine guns with silencers and around 30 machine guns of various calibers.
The list of equipment from China’s Poly Technologies also includes 300 rockets, 500 anti-tank grenades, some 725,000 rounds of ammunition of various types and 15,000 tear gas grenades.
In her request, the defense minister argued that tear gas would help gendarmerie and police deal with crowd control as the “units do not currently possess any of this equipment designed to maintain order.”
CAR’s leaders have repeatedly asked the Security Council to ease the arms embargo to allow shipments of equipment that will beef up the national forces.
France and the U.N. Mine Action Service have helped CAR’s defense ministry set up armories and ammunition depots for the deliveries, which the request stated should take place in June.
“Building up the defence and security forces, alongside Minusca, and progressive deployment of those forces safeguards the security of people and ensures the progressive enforcement of state authority,” Koyara wrote.
Most of the armored vehicles and other weaponry will be used by special forces trained by Rwanda and certified by the European Union Training Mission. Units of CAR’s gendarmerie and police were trained by U.N. police.
The request for Chinese weaponry is backed by an E.U. military training mission and by the U.N. peacekeeping mission Minusca, which has come under repeated attacks from armed groups. Five peacekeepers have been killed this year, including one blue helmet killed in Bambari on Sunday.
The Central African Republic exploded into violence following the 2013 overthrow of longtime leader Francois Bozize, prompting France to intervene with its Operation Sangaris. Minusca took over an African Union-led mission in 2014 and is now around 15,000 strong.
On April 23, President Faustin Archange Touadera said he wants to “accelerate” the disarmament of members of armed groups in Central African Republic, calling for more peacekeepers to be deployed, and for the U.N.’s Minusca mission to transition from peacekeeping to peace enforcement.
Touadera’s weak government controls around a fifth of the Central African Republic and relies heavily on Minusca for support. The rest is controlled by at least 14 different militia groups – the mainly Christian anti-Balaka in the southwest and mainly Muslim ex-Seleka in the northeast – who often fight each other for control of revenue from extortion, roadblocks or mineral resources.
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With reporting from AFP