A first convoy of 14 trucks of UN humanitarian aid arrived in Bangui on February 8 under escort of peacekeepers, after 50 days of a blockade of the Central African capital by armed rebel groups. None of the 1,600 trucks blocked at the Cameroonian border, whether humanitarian aid or goods, had reached Bangui since the rebel offensive of December 19, 2020, which aimed to overthrow President Faustin Archange Touadéra. Almost all of the goods imported from the landlocked country arrive by road from Cameroon. Bangui has not experienced a serious shortage, but the prices of basic foodstuffs have increased considerably. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), 500 trucks of humanitarian aid are blocked at the border with Cameroon.
Asked by AFP, the spokesman for Minusca, Vladimir Monteiro, did not specify whether the delivery of this convoy had been allowed thanks to the presence of peacekeepers and their protection or with the agreement of the rebels.
In recent months, the rebels have never managed to approach Bangui, with the exception of two attacks on the gates of the capital on January 13, which were quickly repulsed. They come up against much better armed and equipped forces: some 12,000 peacekeepers from the Minusca peacekeeping force, present since 2014, but also hundreds of Rwandan soldiers and Russian paramilitaries dispatched at the end of December by their countries to the rescue of President Touadéra and a destitute Central African army.
A week before the presidential and legislative elections of December 27, 2020, six of the ten armed groups that occupy two-thirds of the Central African Republic formed the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) and launched an offensive in order to prevent the re-election of the head of state. He finally won a new presidential term after an extremely contested election, in which two-thirds of Central Africans were unable to go to the polls due to insecurity.
Thanks to lightning attacks, the rebels seized for a few days towns often far from Bangui, in particular along the vital road axis between the capital and Garoua-Boulaï, the main Cameroonian border post. They are thus trying to “suffocate” Bangui, according to the UN, by leading raids, often fleeting, along more than 700 km of these national roads.
Bangui and Minusca announced that they had taken several of these towns back from the rebels in early February. The most recent is Bossemptélé, 288 km north-west of the capital.
The country has known for years an indescribable chaos and a totally disorganized economy. The main export products – wood, gold, diamonds – seet their exploitation stopped or are monopolized by the different factions. Even agricultural activity is affected. Nearly three million Central Africans, out of a population of 4.6 million inhabitants, “will need in the coming months humanitarian assistance and protection of which nearly three-quarters have acute needs. In other words, the physical and moral survival of 1.9 million people, 39% of the population , is in danger”, writes the United Nations humanitarian coordination (Ocha) on its website.