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Russian troops ‘training CAR rebels and Sudanese soldiers’

August 1 - 2018 UM DAFUG
A rebel fighter with an RPG-7 grenade launcher in northern CAR (File photo: Magnus Manske / Wikimedia Commons)
A rebel fighter with an RPG-7 grenade launcher in northern CAR (File photo: Magnus Manske / Wikimedia Commons)

A force of about 500 Russian soldiers that has been stationed near Um Dafug on the border between South Darfur in Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) on Tuesday withdrew into the CAR in the direction of Bembere.

As reported by Radio Dabanga yesterday, the Russian soldiers were received and hosted by the government in a camp 15 kilometres south of Um Dafug. There has been a Russian presence in the area for the past five months.

Witnesses and trusted sources in Darfur have explained about the nature and function of the force. According to source on the ground, during their five-month stay in the area, the troops were conducting military training for some 600 Seleka Muslim rebels from CAR and Sudanese soldiers.

They report that the training includes the dismantling and installation of advanced types of weapons, instruction for driving vehicles, and training for paramedics.

The sources said that the forces withdrew on Tuesday from Um Dafug area into the CAR towards Bembere. The retreating Russian forces took all their vehicles and equipment and left only 50 people and one vehicle 15 kilometres south Um Dafug.

Russia-CAR relations

According to the BBC, CAR President Faustin Touadéra, recently made his second trip to Russia since October 2017. The two countries have been building relations, with Russia providing military support to its African ally.

Russia is assisting the CAR where there has been instability since 2013 when rebels overthrew the François Bozizé regime. According to a BBC report published in May entitled Russian and the Central African Republic: A curious relationship, while Russia has the approval of the UN Security Council to assist and train the CAR military, its motives for getting involved in the region are questionable.

Russia-Sudan relations

On July 13, Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir travelled to Moscow at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The talks between the two Presidents will focus on the economic relations, establishing a strategic partnership for development, enhancement of the joint cooperation in the political and economic fields, increasing investment opportunities, especially the in the areas of agriculture and power and implementation of the Russian-supported programme of modernisation of the Sudanese army.

In November 2017, Al Bashir met with Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, during which Bashir asked Russia to protect Sudan from “aggressive acts of the United States”, which raised eyebrows in Washington.

Journalists slain

Yesterday, it was widely reported that three journalists, believed to be Russians, have been killed in an ambush in the CAR. An independent Russian TV station has said the group were making a documentary about the Russian mercenary group, Wagner, which is said to be active in the CAR.

(Sources: RD, BBC)

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