CAR: Mass Desertions Within Ranks Of Ex-Seleka Rebels

The disappearance of around 100 ex-Seleka rebels drafted into the army and working closely with Russian mercenaries, has triggered a wider exodus of fighters giving up their military posts to rejoin rebel groups, sources say.

Former rebel fighters who had been absorbed into the army in the Central African Republic have begun to desert their posts, it has been reported, prompting fears they are joining a rebel militia.

The desertion of scores of men from the CAR army in the past two weeks follows the unexplained disappearance of around 100 fighters -all formerly from the Seleka militia group who had been then trained by Russian mercenaries and have been working closely with the Wagner private military company, military sources said.

“There were fourteen ex-Seleka rebels who deserted on the first day, followed by twenty-four others, then another sixteen last week,” a senior officer in the CAR army, known as FACA, told HumAngle. “Since then more and more of them have been abandoning the FACA and Wagner ranks and joining the CPC fighters”, the officer who opted for anonymity told HumAngle by phone from Bambari.   

No one knows where the initial 100 missing men went. Stories among the ranks include that they were taken by Wagner to Mali, or to Ukraine, where Russia is fighting an increasingly desperate war.

“Our colleagues who disappeared are not in Bangui nor in Berengo, whereas we were told they had been moved to the capital for further training. Perhaps they are right now in Ukraine to serve as human fodder to the Russian forces”, explained one of the former Seleka rebels by telephone from Ippy.

The more recent desertions have gone over to the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), sources said.

Attempts to get the Central African Republic military hierarchy or the Wagner Security leadership to comment on the allegations of the desertions and the deployment of the ex-Seleka rebels out of the country, were futile as nobody was willing to speak on the issue.

Known locally as the “Black Russians”, the former Seleka rebels were trained by agents of Wagner security and drafted into the Central African Republic national army to fight against the CPC rebellion.

They have been on the frontline of most of the operations carried out by FACA and Russian mercenaries against the CPC rebels.

An attack on a truck around the Maloum mountain on Nov 6 was carried out by the ex-Seleka rebels who had deserted from FACA and Wagner five days earlier in Ndassima, reports say.

There is growing anxiety within the ranks of the several militia groups supporting or fighting alongside government troops and Russian mercenaries as nobody knows who the next group of deserters would be.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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