Central African Republic: release of 19 soldiers kidnapped in February

A total of 19 Central African soldiers, taken hostage on February 14 by an alliance of rebel groups in the north of the Central African Republic, were released on Tuesday, announced the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Of the 20 soldiers taken hostage more than two months ago, 19 have been released and “will arrive in Birao (North) around 5 p.m. (local) and they will stay there until we organize their return to Bangui”told AFP Yves Van Loodeputy head of the ICRC delegation in Central African Republic.

They have been taken hostage by members of the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) after “fierce fighting” between soldiers and rebels in Sikikede, a locality in the region of They sat down in the north of the country, at the crossroads of the Chadian and Sudanese borders.

These clashes had caused military losses “considerable”, according to the government, which had not communicated a precise assessment. The military “appear in good health and able to withstand the journey”said Van Loo.

Release operations

The CPC confirmed the information in a press release, citing a “voluntary and unilateral decision to release the 20 soldiers taken prisoner” over two months ago. Among them, 19 were actually released. “The twentieth is an injured person who had been separated from the group for medical treatment. We’ll pick it up somewhere else later.”Van Loo told AFP.

THE release operations took place in an area where access is made difficult by fighting between rebels, soldiers, and their mercenary allies from the Russian paramilitary group Wagner.

“Since their hostage, their release was our biggest concern (…) We wanted to see them free”told AFP Augustin Ndando KpakoSpokesperson for the General Staff of the Armed Forces. “We intervened from the start as a neutral player in order to negotiate with all the parties concerned”said Van Loo.

In its press release, the CPC confirms that it has “open to negotiations” with “the International Committee of the Red Cross and MINUSCA”the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic.

But she accuses the government and the Central African president, Faustin Archangel Touaderafor refusing “to assume his role as a military leader by getting personally involved in the liberation” of these men.

Civil war

“The deafening silence of President Touadéra”et “of his Minister of Defense show the lack of interest if not the total contempt that they have for the military”accused of fighting “in order to save the President’s chair”can we still read.

Asked about these accusations in particular, the authorities did not respond immediately. After the February 14 attack, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Zephirin Mamadouhad denounced a “act of terrorism” perpetrated by a “criminal armed group”.

CPC spokesperson, Mamadou Koura, told AFP that he was behind the attack. He assured then that the rebels controlled the city of in the fuckwhich the army disputed, and which AFP could not verify from independent sources.

The Central African Republic is the second least developed country in the world according to the UN, and has been the scene since 2013 of a deadly civil war in its early years but which has declined in intensity since 2018.

At the end of 2020, the most powerful of the many armed groups which then shared two-thirds of the territory had joined forces within the CPC and had launched an offensive on Bangui shortly before the presidential and legislative elections to try to overthrow the head of the country. State Faustin Archange Touadéra, who had called on Moscow to the rescue of his destitute army.

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