Sunday, 13:30 in the morning in the pool of the hotel Ledger de Bangui . 30 degrees of temperature. In the water splashes a group of Portuguese military of the European Union mission while sunbathing four members of the US special forces that are not supposed to be here, several Egyptian and Jordanian blue helmets, French gendarmes and five men of skin milky to which nobody approaches . In general there is good atmosphere among all, but not with the latter.
They drink beer amid great laughter and throw themselves into the water in pump mode, making sure to splash out as many people as possible. They speak Russian and do not seem to be afraid of any of the soldiers around them .
What happens in the pool of that luxury hotel, a gift from Muammar Gaddafi to the Central African Republic , can be extrapolated to the rest of the country.
A few countries with military and civilian missions that range from stabilization to the formation of the national army, including the disarmament of militias or the improvement of the treatment of prisoners, without including the NGOs that contribute to the skeletal health system or the help of those displaced by the conflict, one in four citizens. Apart from sexual scandals of any of these contingents , such as French, the cohabitation between all these actors is relatively good.
People do their job and try not to collide with the one next door. That is why they have been bothered by the irruption on the trampoline of the Russians, who threaten to destabilize everything.
The military mission of the European Union uses the land of an old textile factory to set up its offices, dining room, parking for armored vehicles and even a small football field to organize matches between the different contingents. The ranch is good, the coffee is acceptable, there is air conditioning and it is a safe place. But for a few weeks now, Russians have been splashing everywhere .
The Portuguese army commands the formation mission of the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) together with a small group of six Spaniards. For years they have been trying to change a demoralized, defeated and disarmed troop in the first months of the civil war, when the Seleka militias passed over them, by a contingent at the service of the state, disciplined, hierarchical, respectful of Human Rights and capable of to stabilize conflict zones.
The problem that the EU has had in this process is the official arms embargo . While the armed militias have bought war material from traffickers from the northern borders, the armed forces have had to content themselves with old Mauser rifles from the Great War .
In this context of embargo, the Russians have arrived. The Kremlin has launched its first African mission with boots on the ground and the sale of "small arms and ammunition" in addition to the shipment of "170 military and civilian instructors" as it puts in the communication offered to the Security Council of the UN .
Where it says "civil instructors" read mercenaries, although the statement does not say so . In other words, the European Union has been left with competence in the formation of these armed forces. According to the AFP agency, these instructors stay 60 kilometers from the capital, Bangui, in a place called Berengo, where Emperor Bokassa is buried.
What came from Russia were 900 Makarov pistols, 5,200 Kalashnikovs, 840 machine guns, 140 sniper rifles and 270 grenade launchers. Humanitarian sources also claim that Russia is preparing the sale of another type of heavy material that is stationed on the other side of the border with Sudan, where training will be carried out to train the Central Africans in its use.
The Portuguese, French and Spanish are furious because that material has not yet been revealed . Are they tanks? Are they anti-aircraft? Are they helicopters? Why so much secrecy? In the Security Council, the Russian position was as follows: "Russia's assistance is carried out as part of the common efforts of the international community to strengthen the national security units of the Central African Republic." I mean, nothing.
For European intelligence, intentions are different. " The location of the Russian military posts coincides with several diamond mines, which have been granted to Moscow in exchange for this military aid," says an official who prefers not to be summoned to the EU base. With this strategy Putin gets an armed presence in the heart of Africa and succulent contracts for the exploitation of natural resources.
The problem, as some Portuguese military officials indicate, is that the Russian presence carries the greatest American involvement , whose forces remain in hibernation after having been years behind the steps of Warlord Joseph Kony in the jungles of the east of the country.
Sudan and Chad are already present in the civil war from the beginning with their Seleka mercenaries. France, the former colony, has soldiers in the country since Operation Sangaris, as the European Union (Spain included) and the UN with its mission Minusca (11,000 soldiers) that replaced the operation of the African Union.
The next episode of the new cold war will be in the African jungles.
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