Muslim rebels who briefly seized power in the Central African Republic in 2013 have received fresh weapons supplies from traffickers in Sudan even as they take part in peace talks, according to a UN panel of experts.
The panel tasked with monitoring sanctions on the Central African Republic said in a report that leaders of the former Seleka alliance were re-arming to counter the deployment of newly-trained government troops to their areas of influence.
“The influx of weapons from the Sudan, noted since January 2018, has resulted in UPC and FPRC fighters increasingly being seen with pistols and AK-type assault rifles, as well as rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns mounted on their vehicles,” said the report to the Security Council.
The Union for Peace in CAR (UPC) and Popular Front for the Renaissance of CAR (FPRC) are two renamed groups from the Seleka rebel alliance that held power in Bangui from March 2013 to January 2014.
The alliance handed over power to a transitional government after Christian militias, known as the Anti-balaka, rose up against it.
The council has approved shipments of weapons from France, Russia, China, the United States and Belgium to shore up CAR’s poorly-equipped army while military trainers from Russia and the European Union have been sent to the volatile country.
“In order to strengthen their military position in view of the upcoming dialogue and to prepare for possible confrontation with national defense and security forces, ex-Seleka groups have continued to acquire weaponry,” said the report.
The UPC faction received a shipment of assault rifles, machine guns and ammunition in April and a new deal was struck in September with Sudanese traffickers worth about $165,000.
An Arab militia leader in Darfur, Musa Hilal, is frequently cited as one of the main suppliers of weapons from Sudan to the CAR rebels, according to the experts.
The African Union is leading an effort to hold peace talks with all armed groups in CAR, but there has been little progress in that effort.
The final report from the panel of experts was released this week ahead of a Security Council vote expected around January 30 on renewing the arms embargo, travel bans and asset freezes on the Central African Republic.
The arms embargo was imposed in 2013 after CAR descended into bloodshed following the ouster of longtime leader Francois Bozize by the mainly Muslim Seleka faction.
The United Nations has deployed some 13,000 troops and police as part of a peacekeeping force in CAR, tasked with supporting the government of President Faustin-Archange Touadera.