On March 20, 2023, it was reported that nine Chinese Nationals were killed in an attack near Bambari in the Central African Republic. The attack occurred at a site run by the Gold Coast Group, which is located 25 kilometers from the town. According to the mayor of Bambari, Abel Matchipata, “nine bodies and two wounded” were counted. The victims were Chinese workers who were working at the site.
The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, called on the Central African Republic authorities to “severely punish” those behind the killings of the Chinese Nationals. This is a rare call for punishment from the Chinese President, and it highlights the gravity of the situation. China’s foreign ministry confirmed the toll, and the victims’ bodies were transferred to a hospital in the capital city of Bangui. The Chinese ambassador to CAR, Li Qinfeng, and CAR Foreign Minister, Sylvie Baipo Temon, were present during the transfer.
The Central African Republic has been plagued by civil conflict since 2013, when Muslim-dominated armed groups ousted President François Bozize. The Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), an alliance of rebel groups created in December 2020 to overthrow President Faustin Archange Touadera, denied any involvement in the attack. The group accused the Russian Wagner mercenary group of being behind the killings.
In 2020, President Touadera called on Moscow to come to the aid of his weakened army, after armed groups took control of two-thirds of the country and began an assault on Bangui. Hundreds of Russian paramilitaries joined the few hundred already present since 2018, repelling the rebel offensive and pushing them out of a large part of the territories and cities they controlled. Xi’s visit to Russia this week highlights Beijing’s efforts to claim a peacemaking role in the conflict, although Western countries have warned that Beijing may provide arms to Moscow.
China and Russia are increasingly bolstering their presence in Africa to tap its rich natural resources, analysts say, despite grave warnings from UN agencies that the world’s poorest countries face accumulating crippling debts. According to Paul Nantulya of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, one out of every three major infrastructure projects in Africa is built by Chinese state-owned enterprises, and one out of every five is financed by a Chinese policy bank. This underscores the increasing influence of China in Africa and raises concerns about the implications of such influence.
The attack on the Chinese mine workers in the Central African Republic is a tragic incident that highlights the ongoing conflict and instability in the country. It is also a stark reminder of the risks that foreign workers face in countries where conflict and violence are prevalent.