Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CAR launches probe into four French Legionnaires



CAR launches probe into four French Legionnaires

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Central African Republic’s President Faustin Archange Touadera arrives for the first day of an EU African Union summit on February 17. AFP

CAR launches probe into four French Legionnaires

The Central African Republic (CAR) says it has launched an investigation into four French Foreign Legionnaires who are part of the UN peacekeeping mission in the strife-torn country, as the UN chief demanded their release.

The four were arrested on February 21, sparking accusations on social media that they had planned to “assassinate” President Faustin Archange Touadera – allegations that coincide with a row with France over Touadera’s use of Russian paramilitaries.

The CAR public prosecutor late on February 22 said the soldiers – “of French, Italian, Romanian and Bulgarian nationality” – were arrested outside Bangui airport.

They had been travelling in an unmarked car and were dressed in camouflage uniform and were heavily armed, the prosecutor’s office said.

It announced the opening of a “routine inquiry to shed light on the facts”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly condemned” the arrest.

As part of the UN’s peacekeeping force MINUSCA, the four “enjoy privileges and immunities which are held in the interest of the United Nations”, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

That includes a “specific procedure” for when a member of MINUSCA is suspected of having committed an offence – a procedure which Dujarric said had “not been followed”.

They must be released “unconditionally and without delay,” he said.

The French army and the UN say the four had been providing a security escort for General Stephane Marchenoir, a Frenchman who heads the MINUSCA in the deeply troubled CAR.

He had gone to the airport to take a plane for Paris, they say.

But rumours instantly circulated on social media – condemned as false or manipulative by France and the UN – saying the Legionnaires had planned to “assassinate” Touadera, whose motorcade was to pass nearby.

A senior UN official in the CAR met Touadera in a bid to secure their release, a UN spokesman said in New York on on February 22.

The incident coincided with French and US allegations at the UN Security Council on February 22 that “mercenaries” from Russia’s Wagner group, hired by the CAR, killed dozens of civilians last month.

“The violence is systematic, deliberate ... aimed at provoking terror to control certain areas of land and extract profit,” the French ambassador to the UN, Nicolas de Riviere, charged.

The CAR plunged into bloodshed along sectarian lines in 2013 when the then president, Francois Bozize, was toppled by a predominantly Muslim militia.

Military intervention by France, the country’s former colonial power, helped stabilise the situation, enabling the deployment of MINUSCA.

But peace today remains elusive, and powerful armed groups that arose during the conflict retain significant clout.

A coalition of them tried to topple Touadera ahead of elections in December 2020, but were thwarted after Russia flew in hundreds of paramilitaries and Rwanda sent its own military contingent.

The Kremlin describes the Russians as “unarmed instructors”, while the UN and France say they are Wagner personnel who have carried out repeated abuses.

With the Russians’ help, the beleaguered CAR armed forces have regained control over the major cities.

The rebels have been forced into the countryside, where they launch attacks on the security forces and civilians.

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • Bosba: The first Khmer woman composer from UK’s Cambridge

    Bosba Panh is just 25 years old, but she’s already accomplished some impressive milestones for herself and the Kingdom. On July 24, she graduated with a Master’s degree from the University of Cambridge as the first Khmer woman composer and Khmer music graduate ever at

  • ‘Golden’ Angkor Wat likely due to natural phenomenon: ANA

    Pictures and video clips of the Angkor Wat temple, its spires seemingly coated in gold, have been shared tens of thousands of times on social media, prompting a sense of wonder among those who have seen them. Hong Sam Ath, who took the pictures and

  • Pailin longan winery tries to break through to the big time

    Longan aren’t quite as glamorous as some fruits. They don’t have the star-power of mangos or generate the excitement of a pricey seasonal niche fruit like the pungent durian. Unlike bananas or oranges, which are known and loved everywhere, longan remains a decidedly

  • Debt restructuring over, time to tackle rising NPL ratio

    The Cambodian banking system has just completed a 26-month debt restructuring exercise where scores of loan accounts were revised, classified and provisioned as the rate of non-performing loans inched up, sparking a slight credit risk unease Implemented in April 2020, the Covid-19 debt restructuring measures came

  • Koh Slaket studio resort brings culture with style

    Davitra (Cambodia) Co Ltd’s multi-million-dollar 13ha Koh Slaket studio-cum-resort just east of the capital was inaugurated in the first phase on August 6, providing national and international tourists with a new travel option and job opportunities for locals. The man-made cultural and scenic lakefront getaway