Hundreds of Wagner troops arrived in the Central African Republic just before the President’s constitutional referendum to abolish term limits. The Wagner Group is the private army of Putin’s once-close ally, the late Yevgeny Prigozhin, and arrived to “provide security” ahead of the July 30th referendum.
“Russian instructors will continue to help soldiers from the Central African armed forces and C.A.R. law enforcement agencies …, in anticipation of the constitutional referendum,” said the description given. A spokesperson for Officers Community International Security, a front company for the Wagner group, said that “another aircraft has arrived in Bangui with instructors to work in the Central African Republic,” assuring that the “scheduled rotation continues.” However, the spokesperson declined to put a number on how many troops had landed, stating only that “several hundred experienced professionals from the Wagner company are joining the team working in the C.A.R.”
This statement came after the group’s short-lived mutiny in Russia led to questions about the its involvement abroad, and as President Faustin-Archange Touadéra – first elected in 2016, and intending to run again – spearheads a referendum to abolish the C.A.R.’s two-term presidential limit. According to a Reuters report, Touadéra turned to Russia for security contractors to squash rebel uprisings and first received troops in 2018. Since then, more than 1,500 Wagner troops have fought alongside the national army.
Term limits exist to regulate the federal government’s power and control over a nation. Having a requirement for a power transfer is essential to keeping the government made up of candidates the public wants to support, rather than allowing the incumbent to win continuously. His allies may argue that term limits are uncommon in neighbouring countries, but by changing the C.A.R.’s constitution to suit his own needs, the President is demonstrating a desire to remain in power despite the democratic urgency laid out in the law.
Using foreign military to retain undemocratic control demonstrates that Touadéra anticipates unrest and, rather than allowing his nation’s criticism to be reflected in legislation or the courts, plans to use militant might to crush it. The President is indicating that he knows the country will be unhappy with the referendum he seeks to pass. Using troops to crush rebellion will not change public opinion. It will only provide a temporary, and bloody, solution to the unrest.
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