Human RightsNews

Family Of French Soldier Arrested In Central African Republic Protests Detention

The soldier was arrested on illegal possession of firearms in 2021, and has since been in detention in Bangui.

French army sergeant, Remy Quignolot, who was arrested in the Central African Republic on May 11, 2021, on suspicion of illegally possessing arms is still in detention, HumAngle can report. 

Quignolot is detained in Bangui, the Central African Republic capital, and seems to have his case entangled in a web of international diplomatic wrangling.

His lawyer, Maxime Delacorte, and sister, say he is trapped in the middle of international geopolitical wargames.

They both disclosed that his last demand to be released was rejected on Nov. 24, 2021,  adding that the most senior judge of the court that heard the matter declared that “elements which up to date have been unknown and put at the disposal of the court by the prosecution have changed the vision of the case.”

The 55-year-old French national who had served for 10 years in Africa is charged with threats to state security, terrorism, espionage, association with criminals, possession of war arms, and ammunitions and pimping.

According to his lawyer, apart from the accusation of illegal possession of war arms and ammunition, the judicial dossier is empty.

“He has not been subjected to any police surveillance nor telephone tapping. There are no witnesses. My client is a hostage of the Central African Republic regime which has been instrumental in using the situation within its imbroglio with Paris,” the lawyer said. 

The French Embassy in the Central African Republic has refused to make categorical statements concerning their national coaching’s decision on “obligation of reserve” but declared that Sergeant Remy Quignolot “has benefited from consular protection.”

“We do not understand anything concerning the charges against him. We have no contact with him, and this is very agonizing,” Quignolot’s sister declared, adding that all she knows of what her brother has been going through was that he is detained in isolation with a plate of rice daily as only feeding and that his house was recently looted.

The sister, who opted to remain anonymous, said her brother is “a man of action with a spirit of adventure but reserved and discreet who today has nothing left.”

A father of four children, Remy Quigolot, has lived in New Zealand after leaving the army in 1992, according to his personal declarations. He revealed that he eventually travelled to Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali and finally to the Central African Republic in 2013.

He had contracts in private security, fighting against poaching, accompanying television teams as ‘close protection officer’ for the Blue Helmets of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) until May 10, 2021, the day before he was arrested.

His lawyer and family members said his arrest was carefully planned and put in place with hundreds of ammunitions, some camouflage military uniforms, bullet-proof vests, binoculars, torch lights, telephones and above all four weapons including an automatic pistol, one hunting rifle, an M16 gun and a carabine displayed and photographed to illustrate what the prosecution presented as “an impressive arsenal” destined towards preparing a coup d’etat.

Quignolot said some of the things removed from his house were his work tools and confessed to illegally possessing an M16 rifle.

Freddy Lemonnier, the representative of French nationals in the Central African Republic, said that if everybody in possession of a gun in Bangui were to be arrested, there would be no space to detain those arrested.

The leader of the French nationals in Bangui said he no longer counts the number of years he has been living in the Central African Republic by figures but by the number of alleged coup plots ‘discovered’ in the country, which he puts at six.

The Frenchman who ran the Relais des Chasses outfit in Bangui for 27 years says he visited several Frenchmen in prison to give them food.

Lemonnier is now in France but is preparing to return to the Central African Republic, which he considers his second country. He has reservations about the treatment of French nationals in the country, saying “they no longer love French people there.”

He is pained by the regular anti-French demonstrations orchestrated by the regime in place in Bangui, during which the French flag is regularly burnt on the streets of Bangui.

The arrest of Quignolot came at a time when the regime in Bangui had handed over the defence of the country to the Russian mercenaries of Wagner Security Group and at a time when the first accusations of looting, rape and summary executions against the Russian mercenaries started appearing in the international press.

The arrest also took place when tension was rising between the old colonial masters of the country, France and the Bangui regime on the freezing of cooperation by the French and, in return, an anti-French media campaign.

As recently as Dec. 19, 2021, Steve Tangoa, one of the advisers of the Central African Republic president, published a photo of Remy Quigolot in handcuffs captioned “The French Wagner salutes you from Central Africa.”

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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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