Wagner mercenaries arrive in CAR ahead of new constitution referendum
Dozens of fighters from Russia’s Wagner mercenary group have reportedly arrived in the Central African Republic (CAR) ahead of a constitutional referendum due on July 30 that could abolish the term limits and allow the current president, Faustin-Archange Touadera, to seek another term in 2025.
A short-lived mutiny in Russia in June, led by the group’s founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, has prompted the departure of hundreds of Wagner Group fighters from the CAR, raising questions about the future of Wagner’s military and commercial operations in several African countries. The CAR government had said previously that the fighters’ movement was part of a rotation of forces rather than a withdrawal. However, presidential spokesperson Albert Yaloke Mokpem also acknowledged that the dozens of mercenaries on the tarmac seen in photos on social media were new arrivals who will also “secure the constitutional referendum.”
Meanwhile, the referendum campaign was launched on Sunday July 16 by President Touadéra in CAR capital city, Bangui. “Today I want to appeal to the sons and daughters of the country. The referendum vote gives you the opportunity to decide on a better future for the country,” Touadéra told the packed crowd of supporters. If approved, the new constitution removes the limit of two terms to the president, and, as a result, will allow the current incumbent to run for a third term in office. Touadera’s campaign team has tried to allay fears over the referendum. Rich in gold, diamonds and timber, the country of 5.5 million people has struggled to find stability since independence in 1960.