- Company assets and personnel will remain exposed to severe threats of attacks and kidnap amid frequent clashes between military, Wagner and armed groups
- Unrest linked to West-Russia-China rivalry and wider anti-government sentiment will continue over next year, particularly in Bangui
- Growing dissatisfaction in security forces over wages, senior personnel changes, and government’s ties with Wagner will increase likelihood of coup attempt in next year
- Prime Minister Félix Moloua accuses the rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) of an attack on the Chingbolo gold mine in Bambari region on 19 March that killed nine Chinese nationals. The CPC denies involvement and blames the Russian Wagner Group for the killings. (20 March)
- Chinese President Xi Jinping calls for the “severe punishment” of those responsible for the Chingbolo attack. (20 March)
- Around 200 people hold a pro-Russia and China demonstration in Bangui. (23 March)
It is not possible to confirm the Chingbolo attack perpetrators so far. The CPC is a feasible candidate as the group is active in the area, and has previously attacked mines and foreign nationals, including Chinese ones. Previous incidents however primarily aimed to loot equipment and resources or kidnap for ransom, and have rarely involved fatalities. Nonetheless, an attack with the potential to undermine Bangui’s ties with China – its largest foreign investor – fits the CPC’s strategic aims as it looks to destabilise the government.
Allegations Wagner carried out the attack are also credible. Bambari region is primarily under CAR military control, supported by Wagner. In the past year, the private military company has pushed to extend its control over mining resources, including through violent attacks. Several senior government officials have questioned the official line that the CPC was responsible. However, a Wagner attack – which occurred a day before Xi’s state visit to Russia – risks jeopardising Moscow’s increasing reliance on China. Bangui is also currently reassessing its Wagner ties amid Western pressure, and this attack would encourage a decoupling. Wagner has also not previously targeted foreign nationals.
Given these factors, another viable perpetrator is a local militia group. Anti-Chinese sentiment is growing in CAR, triggering attacks on Chinese assets and personnel. For instance, an unidentified armed group kidnapped three Chinese nationals in western CAR on 16 March. Anti-China sentiment stems from several grievances, including forced displacement of local communities for Chinese projects, and the hiring of Chinese workers rather than locals. Resultantly, attacks on Chinese nationals will likely escalate in coming years, regardless of the perpetrators of the Chingbolo incident.
Implications for Business
Security: Frequent clashes and competition over natural resources between the CPC, Wagner and other armed groups will continue to pose severe threats to project sites and personnel, including the killing and kidnapping of local staff. Almost all regions of CAR are affected by violence, including Bangui, though Nana-Mambéré, Vakaga, Ouaka and Bamingui-Bangoran prefectures typically witness the highest levels of violence. The CPC and militias also regularly launch attacks on main roads and government infrastructure, including local administrative offices and border posts, and are increasingly using more advanced weaponry such as homemade drones and IEDs to conduct attacks.
Stability: As highlighted by the pro-Russia and China protests, unrest linked to the West-Russia-China rivalry will continue in the coming years. Almost all of these types of protests will be state-sponsored, meaning they will likely have small-to-moderate levels of participation and will be concentrated in Bangui. However, wider anti-government sentiment is growing amid President Faustin-Archange Touadéra’s bid to enact constitutional amendments to allow him to run for re-election again in 2025, and increasing repression of opposition and civil society activities. The government is also struggling to pay public sector and security forces’ wages amid liquidity issues, while there are shortages of essential goods, which has pushed up inflation.
These issues have already prompted strikes in recent months, and more are likely in the months ahead, causing disruption on key supply routes and urban centres. Growing security forces’ dissatisfaction – over the wages issues, as well as recent senior military personnel changes and Bangui’s ties with Wagner – also raises the likelihood of a coup attempt in the next year.