Africa

UN Peacekeepers Claim to Have Retaken CAR Town From Rebels

A UN peacekeeping force said Wednesday it had expelled rebels from a town in the war-torn Central African Republic in order to “protect civilians.”

Rebels from the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) overran the northeastern town of Ouanda-Djalle on June 16, causing some 7,000 residents to flee into the forest, pro-government lawmakers from the region said.

MINUSCA peacekeepers from Rwanda and Zambia deployed there to try to negotiate a withdrawal.

When this failed, “in compliance with its mandate to protect civilians… MINUSCA launched a military operation” Sunday, the force said in a statement.

“The armed elements were forced to pull out of the area,” it said.

A top official with the UN peacekeeping force said two rebels had died of their wounds.

The CPC in its own statement accused MINUSCA of “immoral collusion” with Russian mercenary outfit Wagner and the Centrafrican forces it is alleged to be backing.

It was not immediately possible to verify whether any Centrafrican forces or Russian mercenaries were present in Ouanda-Djalle.

One of the world’s poorest countries, the Central African Republic has been torn apart by civil wars for much of the past nine years.

In 2013, a Muslim-dominated rebellion overthrew president Francois Bozize, sparking reprisals from predominantly Christian and animist self-defense militias.

The United Nations deployed MINUSCA to the Central African Republic in 2014 to try to quell the conflict.

The fighting peaked in 2018 and rebel groups controlled two-thirds of the country’s territory until early 2021.

Rebels tried to oust President Faustin-Archange Touadera in late 2020 by launching an offensive on the capital Bangui, but the army — with purported help from Russian mercenaries — managed to repel it.

But the state still struggles to establish its authority in many remote areas of the vast nation.

CAR’s former colonial ruler France and its allies accuse Touadera of turning to Moscow and Wagner to shore up his position in exchange for a share of the CAR’s mineral wealth.

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