From turmoil to tranquility: A reshaped landscape of peace and security in Bangui

On 23 November 2023 at 02:32

In late 2020, a visit to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, painted a vivid picture of a city grappling with insecurity. The echoes of daily gunfire underscored a tense atmosphere. Fast forward to today, the situation has undergone a significant transformation, and residents are now basking in a renewed sense of tranquility.

Despite these notable improvements, Bangui is still shadowed by persistent rumors of attacks and terrorist threats, disrupting the rhythm of daily life. One particularly disruptive rumor circulated, claiming that opposition fighters had infiltrated the city, leading to a temporary evacuation of the president.

The ensuing panic among the population was later quelled when it was revealed that these fears were unfounded. The current stabilization of Bangui can be largely attributed to the timely intervention of the Rwandan army.

Arriving in January 2014 as part of the African-led International Support Mission in Central Africa (MISCA), these soldiers later joined the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Their primary mission was to protect civilians, UN facilities, as well as the head of state and his family, contributing significantly to the city’s security, housing nearly a million people within a 67 km² area.

The Central African Republic, with its five million inhabitants and an area of 622,984 km² mostly covered by forests, witnessed the deployment of Rwandan troops following a conflict that began in 2012. This conflict saw the emergence of the armed group Séléka in the north and a foiled coup attempt, ultimately leading to clashes culminating in Séléka’s takeover of Bangui and the president’s escape.

In response, a predominantly Christian faction in the south formed the Anti-Balaka group. Clashes between these two factions plunged the country into profound chaos, marked by intense fighting, national collapse, massive population displacement, and a humanitarian crisis. Despite numerous peace agreements, lasting stability remained elusive.

Over 2,000 Rwandan soldiers under MINUSCA

Currently, 2,110 Rwandan soldiers play a crucial role in MINUSCA, with a specific group responsible for protecting the head of state since 2014. This duty is entrusted to highly qualified young men and women from the Rwandan army. A member of this elite unit, assigned to President Touadéra’s security, shared impressions with the media IGIHE: "It’s a demanding commitment where vigilance is required at every moment. Our ability to respond effectively to unforeseen situations is the result of rigorous preparation and the inspiring leadership of our superiors."

Beyond their close protection mission, these Rwandan soldiers are tasked with securing strategic locations such as the presidential residence and M’poko airport, providing a guarantee of security and stability for the capital. The deployment of these forces has had a notable positive impact on the local economy, encouraging entrepreneurs to resume their activities unhindered. This development has also attracted Rwandan investments to Bangui, particularly in the trade and agriculture sectors, showcasing renewed confidence in the region’s stability.

Rwandan special forces in CAR

In addition to MINUSCA forces, around 1,200 Rwandan soldiers have been deployed to the Central African Republic since 2020, following a bilateral agreement between the two countries. This initiative is part of strengthened cooperation, including the exchange of security knowledge and trade cooperation.

These special protection troops were deployed at a critical moment when François Bozizé was orchestrating plans to overthrow Touadera’s government. Faced with this period of uncertainty and tension, even the Rwandan army operating under the UN encountered major challenges. Their main mission was to thwart Bozizé’s attempts and ensure the protection of UN mission members.

Their arrival coincided with preparations for the presidential election, which saw President Touadéra’s reelection. After arriving in Bangui, these special protection troops expanded their operation to Sibut, Dékoa, Batangafo, and Kaga Bandoro. On December 21, 2020, President Kagame emphasized the strategic importance of these troops in a press conference. He stated that these soldiers had a distinct mandate from that of the UN, aiming to counter any action disrupting the elections and defending against attacks on Rwandan troops deployed in MINUSCA.

According to President Kagame, the Rwandan army’s intervention aimed to maintain order and ensure the smooth running of democratic processes in response to destabilization attempts. This operation underscores the effectiveness and determination of Rwandan special forces in maintaining peace and stability in the Central African Republic, highlighting their crucial role in complex crisis situations.

120 Rwandan military trainers: Forging the future of Central African Defense

Within the Rwandan forces deployed in the CAR, 120 military personnel stand out with a specific mission: they are responsible for training the Central African army. This strategic initiative aims to ensure that, even after the withdrawal of Rwandan troops, the Central African forces are perfectly capable of ensuring national security.

The first batch of Central African soldiers trained by the Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) will complete their training on November 24. This group of 513 soldiers will be ready to take on the country’s security responsibilities, including protecting the population and infrastructure, as well as escorting goods to the borders of Cameroon and Chad, tasks currently performed by RDF soldiers.

Furthermore, Rwandan forces are currently stationed in a strategic area on the border between the Central African Republic and Sudan, specifically in Sam-Ouandja. They play an essential role in monitoring activities that could disrupt security, especially in the Damara region, near the border with Chad.

RDF spokesperson Brigadier General Ronald Rwivanga highlighted the positive impact of this military presence: "Security is omnipresent; residents and foreigners can trade with peace of mind, even late at night. The fear of attacks from the Anti-Balaka or Séléka groups has dissipated."

In addition, Rwandan military patrols maintain constant surveillance around the city, adopting a similar approach to that implemented in Rwanda to ensure the security and well-being of the population.