Prosecutors in Bangui on Wednesday charged a French national of espionage and conspiracy but the French government that abandoned one of its own Atangana Thiery in a French Cameroun jail in Yaoundé for 17 years is now claiming that its former colony is siding with a Kremlin disinformation campaign.
Our senior political commentator in Yaoundé says the French government’s take on the happenings in the Central African Republic is shameful, disgusting and disgraceful and serves only French selfish interest in the CEMAC region.
France left the mineral-rich nation poverty-stricken and unstable since independence 60 years ago while French multinationals stayed behind and have been looting the country ever since.
Thousands of its citizens have died and more than a quarter of the population of 4.9 million have fled their homes in fighting aimed at control of mineral resources. Of these, 675,000 are refugees in neighbouring countries in the so-called CEMAC region.
Correspondingly, Juan Remy Quignolot the French director of all operations that is destabilizing the Central African Republic was arrested in the capital Bangui on May 10 and has been placed in protective custody pending an inquiry by an investigating magistrate.
Central African Republic prosecutor Eric Didier Tambo who confirmed the arrest of Mr. Juan Remy Quignolot told a press conference in Bangui that Juan Remy has been aiding several French backed armed militias fighting the elected government in the Central African Republic.
Contrary to reports that Eric Didier Tambo made no reference to any country or organisation for whom Quignolot allegedly worked, Cameroon Intelligence Report gathered from a Cameroonian gendarmerie officer serving with the UN in Bangui that Juan Remy Quignolot works for the French Secret Service and that the Cameroonian military leadership in MINUSCA-United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic knew him and nicknamed him Bob Denard.
At the time of his arrest, Quignolot was in possessing a huge quantity of combat weapons and passing himself off as a journalist with a press card.
In an attempt to bully Bangui to submission, France reportedly froze cooperation with the Central African Republic over what Paris described as an anti-French disinformation campaign and pointed a finger at Russia-a world power that is in the Central African nation to help build its institutions and police force.
French speaking African aid workers were quick to say that Mr. Quignolot had worked occasionally as a security guard for several organizations in the Central African Republic. But many in Bangui are finding it difficult to accept that a man who joined the French army at a teenage age would end up as a security guard in their country.
– French anger –
Photos circulating on social media on the day of Quignolot’s arrest showed him with his hands bound behind his back, sitting on some steps before an arsenal of weapons, ammunition and military clothing.
Two days later, France lashed the arrest and the pictures as “clear manipulation.”
It said “disinformation networks” were being used, “promoting well-identified interests who are used to targeting France’s presence and actions” in the CAR.
Quignolot’s arrest was notably conveyed on Twitter by Valery Zakharov, a Russian who is a close advisor to CAR President Faustin Archange Touadera.
On Monday, France suspended budgetary aid and military cooperation with the CAR.
“The CAR authorities have several times made commitments which they haven’t upheld, both politically with regard to the opposition and in its behaviour towards France, which is being targeted by a massive disinformation campaign,” the French foreign ministry said.
“The Russians are involved, but the CAR is an accomplice at best.”
France has long played a key role in the CAR since the impoverished landlocked country gained independence in 1960.
It intervened militarily to help still a bloody conflict that erupted along sectarian lines after the then president, Francois Bozize, was toppled by predominantly Muslim rebels in 2013.
The mission, Operation Sangaris, ended in 2016 following elections.
– Russian role –
But in past months, tensions have grown over the Russian presence in the chronically unstable country.
In 2018, Russia sent weapons and a large contingent of “instructors” to train the CAR’s beleaguered armed forces.
It has also stepped up investment in the CAR’s mining sector. The country’s riches include gold, diamonds, copper and uranium.
Last December, Moscow, as well as Rwanda, sent hundreds of military personnel to help shore up Touadera as a coalition of armed groups mounted an attempted coup ahead of presidential elections.
The reinforcements have helped Touadera to regain control over much of the country, which had previously been mostly in the hands of militias.
On May 30, in an interview with France’s Journal du Dimanche newspaper, French President Emmanuel Macron said “anti-French talk has provided legitimacy to predatory Russian mercenaries at the apex of the state, with a President Touadera who today is a hostage of the Wagner group.”
The Wagner group is the name given to Russian paramilitaries that operate under the orders of the Kremlin.
Last December, Facebook removed two networks of fake accounts based in Russia and one linked to the French military which it said were being used for interference campaigns in Africa, including in CAR.
Reported by Cameroon Intelligence Report and AFP