Relations between France and CAR following the detention of French mercenaries in Bangui

Blogger Tapé Groubera, teacher-researcher and writer, has produced his analysis of the arrest of two French nationals in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR). This high-profile case took place on June 10, 2024. The Central African gendarmerie arrested two French nationals, Osmani Samir Antonio and Ben Salem, at their home in the 7th arrondissement of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, located near the residence of the French ambassador. A search of their home led to the seizure of AK 47 weapons, large-calibre ammunition, grenades, ballistic military helmets, tens of millions of CFA francs, passports from various countries and military uniforms, as well as other items.

The two nationals each hold several passports and residence permits in Dubai. During the hearing, Osmani Samir Antonio admitted to having carried out his military service as a paratrooper with ATAP in northern France. In Bangui, the suspects have the status of economic operators in the mining sector.

With the arrest of two French mercenaries holding an arsenal of weapons in their home, government spokesman Maxime Balalou is urging Central Africans to be vigilant with regard to certain foreigners residing in the CAR to prevent the country from being infiltrated by enemies seeking to destabilize the democratic regime by any means.

The spokesman noted that despite the Central African authorities’ willingness to open CAR’s doors to all countries in the world wishing to cooperate with it, there are unfortunately some nostalgic for CAR’s colonial past who continue to strive to destabilize the 7th Republic.

In addition to Maxime Balalou’s statement, the Central African government had already set out its official position on the matter in a communiqué from the prosecutor’s office. Moreover, according to Tapé Groubera, the huge arsenal of weapons found in the French mercenaries’ house brings their actions within the scope of article 259 of the Central African penal code, which threatens them with a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years and a fine of 5 to 10 million CFA francs.

The internationally renowned publication Africa Intelligence also reports that the President of the Central African Republic is not happy with the detention of French citizens, as it risks souring relations with France. And just recently, in April 2024, President Faustin Archange Touadera signed a roadmap with Emanuel Macron to restore relations with France. This situation now calls into question the integrity of this partner.

The detention of French nationals has still not been commented on by the French embassy in Bangui or any other French government body. According to blogger and writer Tapé Groubera, France’s silence and lack of concrete action may reflect the loss of its ability to engage in dialogue with African countries, or the weakening of France’s political weight in the region.