Central Africa PM Fired Amid Tensions Over Russia-France Tug Of War
The Central African Republic’s prime minister has been sacked, the presidency confirmed Monday, against the backdrop of tensions between pro-Russian and pro-French factions within the government of the poor, unstable country.
Henri-Marie Dondra had been named prime minister in June 2021, shortly after Paris froze budgetary aid to its former colony, accusing it of “complicity” in what it called a Russian “disinformation” campaign against France.
Presidency spokesman Albert Yaloke Mokpeme told AFP that Dondra was “fired” and replaced by his economy minister, Felix Moloua, confirming a weekend report by online news website Africa Intelligence.
President Faustin-Archange Touadera was attending an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa at the time.
Russia’s influence in the Central African Republic (CAR) has increased steadily over the past four years, and in late 2020 Russian military contractors helped quell a rebellion against Touadera.
At the time of Dondra’s appointment as prime minister, he was perceived as more “pro-French” than his predecessor Firmin Ngrebada, seen as more sympathetic to the Russians.
“Touadera had named Dondra because he was close to international donors and he had good relations with France,” said Roland Marchal, a researcher at Sciences Po university in Paris.
But Dondra had “little control” over the defence and foreign ministers, as well as the influential pro-Russian parliament speaker, Simplice Sarandji, Marchal, told AFP.
A civil war broke out in the CAR in 2013, pitting myriad militias against a state on the verge of collapse.
The fighting had lessened considerably in recent years, but it resumed abruptly when rebels launched their failed offensive to overthrow Touadera.
The UN accused both sides in the fighting of human rights abuses.
The private military contractors are often described as belonging to the “Wagner group” — an entity with no known legal status.
Last week the European Union said it would resume a suspended military training mission in the CAR if the country’s soldiers stopped working for Wagner