Rwanda has sent troops to the Central African Republic, where its soldiers serving under a UN mandate have been “targeted by the rebels” of ex-president François Bozizé, the Rwandan defence ministry announced overnight.
“The Rwandan government has deployed a protection force in the Central African Republic, as part of a bilateral defence agreement. The deployment is in response to the targeting of the contingent of the Forces de Défense du Rwanda (RDF) under the UN peacekeeping force by the rebels supported by (former president) François Bozizé,” the ministry said in a statement.
No details are given on the date of deployment, the volume of the personnel deployed, or their exact mission. The ministry only specified that “Rwandan troops will also contribute to ensuring peaceful and secure general elections scheduled for Sunday, December 27, 2020”.
Contacted by AFP, the Rwandan Ministry of Defence referred to its press release.
Rwanda has been one of the main contributors to the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (Minusca) since its deployment in 2014. Minusca has approximately 11,500 peacekeepers.
The Rwandan contingent of the Minusca is notably in charge of the security of the Central African president Faustin Archange Touadéra and the protection of the presidential palace.
Friday evening, three of the most powerful armed groups occupying more than two-thirds of the Central African Republic had started to progress on roads vital for the supply of the capital Bangui, after announcing their merger.
In the process, the government accused François Bozizé on Saturday of “attempted coup”, giving him the “clear intention to march with his men on” Bangui, which his party denied.
Coming to power in 2003 before being himself overthrown in 2013 by a rebel coalition that plunged the country into civil war, Mr. Bozizé declared himself a candidate for the presidential election on Sunday.
But the Constitutional Court invalidated his candidacy, ruling that he was under UN sanctions for his alleged support for armed groups responsible for “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”.
On Saturday, Mr. Touadéra had already mentioned Rwanda’s involvement in the fight against the rebels: “our soldiers are on general alert, supported by Minusca, the Russian Federation, and Rwanda to get out of this crisis,” he said to his supporters.
Fighters from private Russian security companies have taken action against the rebels in an area southwest of Bangui, according to humanitarian and security sources.