Nearly 200 people march in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, in support of China and Russia, four days after nine Chinese were killed at a mining site in the centre of the country.
The march started in the morning and ended midday at the foot of a monument which pays homage to the country’s armed forces and its Russian allies.
The demonstrators held up Russian flags and banners proclaiming “Support China” and “Russia is Wagner, we love Russia and we love Wagner”, and laid a wreath of flowers in front of the Chinese embassy.
“Since the Republic is not a vague land where barbaric acts must be perpetuated, we pray to the Head of State, Father of the Nation and Supreme Head of Armies, to take its constitutional responsibility to defend Central Africans and foreign partners in the service of the win-win partnership in Central Africa,” expressed Bienvenu Toka, deputy spokesman of the Republican Front in Central Africa.
“We stand in solidarity with the embassy and China because China is a great country that has helped the Central African Republic a great deal. We have the example of the Amitiés hospital and the Domicien hospital. China has done much for Africa not (just) for the Central African Republic but for Africa. ….” added Abdoul Asy Babia, a public law student in Bangui.
On Sunday, nine Chinese nationals were killed in an attack on a mining site in central China. A commission of enquiry has been set up and Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for “severe punishment” for those responsible.
Xi “has given important instructions, demanding an all-out effort to treat the wounded, handle the aftermath in a timely manner, severely punish perpetrators in accordance with the law, and ensure the safety of Chinese citizens”, a foreign ministry spokesperson said in Beijing.
Two people were seriously wounded, China added.
The CAR, one of the world’s poorest countries, has been in the throes of civil conflict since 2013.
Militias hold sway over large tracts of the country, and often clash over access to minerals and other resources.
Bambari’s deputy prefect, Saturnin Nicaise Ngrepande, told AFP that government forces “and Russians have been here since yesterday… they have gone off to hunt for the rebels, whose identity has yet to be confirmed.”
“It could be members of the Union for Peace in Central Africa” (UPC), he said, referring to a major rebel group.
“But it could be hard to know whether it’s a (UPC) group that’s attached to the Coalition of Patriots for Change” (CPC), he said.
The CPC is an alliance of rebel groups created in December 2020 to overthrow President Faustin Archange Touadera.
Prime Minister Felix Moloua on Sunday accused the CPC of the attack, but offered no evidence.
In a statement, the CPC denied any involvement in what it described as a “despicable and barbaric” act.
It accused Russia’s Wagner mercenary group of being behind the deed, also without providing evidence.
Russian paramilitaries deployed to the CAR in 2018. Their numbers increased in 2020 to fend off an assault on the capital by the CPC.
The nine had been employed at Gold Coast Group gold mine 25 kilometres (15 miles) from Bambari.
The victims’ bodies were transferred to a hospital in the capital Bangui, where Chinese ambassador Li Qinfeng and CAR Foreign Minister Sylvie Baipo Temon attended, an AFP journalist said.