Central African Republic may be Russia’s route to Africa

The Central African Republic (CAR) has signed a military co-operation agreement with Russia to strengthen defense ties.

Russia is deepening its military cooperation with the Central African Republic, donating small arms to the country’s military and holding diplomatic talks in a bid to strengthen its influence on the African continent.

After series of conflicts between the Central African Republic’s government forces and the Seleka rebel coalition in 2012-2013, an arms embargo was implemented by the United Nations (UN) in December 2013. Since then, the country has been struggling with serious turmoil, civil war and brutal regime shifts.

In 2017, the UN arms embargo on CAR was lifted for Russia and the world’s largest nation obtained a derogation from the arms embargo, with the Security Council (UNSC) agreeing to its request to deliver light weaponry, including 900 pistols, 5,200 assault rifles and 270 rocket-launchers. Russia has also sent specialists to train CAR’s forces.

The signing of the military co-operation agreement which took place in Russia between Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Central African Republic’s Defence Minister Marie-Noelle Koyara would “help strengthen ties in the defence sphere,” Shoigu noted.

As Russia looks to boost its military cooperation in Africa, the choice of Central African Republic is very strategic. According to French-Africa expert Roland Marchal,”The relations between Central African Republic and the West are, let us say, tense. Maybe Russia has a window of opportunity to enter, get easy influence and maybe develop some economic activities,” and there is no better way to do it than to start with military cooperation.

Africa is Russia’s second largest market for weapons sales with 16 percent of Russian arms exportation (after Asia and Oceania with 68 percent).