The Retour, Réclamation et Réhabilitation (3R) rebel movement in the Central African Republic has within the past several weeks intensified attacks on civilian populations and army positions in the prefectures of Nana-Mambere, Ouham-Pende and Mabere-Kadei, where most of their militias hold sway.
The most recent attack in the morning of Friday, July 3, on Ndjim, situated about 37km from the sub prefecture of Bocaranga on the Ngaoundaye highway.
According to eye-witness accounts, 3R gunmen attacked four traders from Paoua who were returning from the border market of Mbaimboum and carted away their four motor bikes and the goods they procured from the market.
“The gunmen attacked us within the vicinity of the Central African army positions as well as a camp of the UN military mission to Central Africa but the two armed forces could do nothing to save us,” one of the victims who refused to give his name revealed.
The previous evening, the same armed men released barrages of heavy and light weapons within the periphery of Bozoum before leaving the area unperturbed by both the national army and UN forces.
The 3R movement that was founded by Abass Sidiki, who has since declared himself an army general, in 2015, had as its initial objective, “the protection of the Peul community against attacks by Anti-Balaka militias”. The public believes it has since become a strategic and political tool in the hands of an invisible power.
“Its founder and president, Abass Sidiki no longer controls anything and all the military strategies and communication of his movement are now controlled by a powerful cell outside the decision-making circles,” a political scientist in Bangui, the national capital, told HumAngle on Monday.
The 3R movement is among the armed groups that signed Accord Politique pour la Paix et la Reconciliation in Republique Centrafricain (APPR-RCA) – Political Accord for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic. But it has within the past several months become notorious for its incessant attacks on civilians as well as UN peace-keepers and soldiers of the Central African Republic army.
The leader of the group, Sidiki, is a special adviser to the country’s Prime Minister Fermin Ngrebada.
Despite the movement’s proximity to power, it is being more and more identified with banditry than with a properly constituted military grouping that is supposed to contribute towards peace in the beleaguered Central African Republic.
Strangely though, the authorities in the country continue to recognize it as a politico-military force instead of a group of bandits that it has become. The reason is because it is being used as a pawn in the Central African power game and no longer pursuing its initial goal of ensuring the return of Peuls as well as their families and their cattle to their places of origin in order to take over the lands and properties they abandoned.
After the signing of the Khartoum peace accord on February 6, 2019, its leader, Sidiki, alias Bi Sidi Souleymane, was in March by presidential decree appointed special adviser to the Prime Minister in- charge of special mixed units of security in the Northwest region.
Sidiki’s representatives were also appointed into the government of Prime Minister Firmin Ngrebada, thus permitting them access into the higher ranks of political and military life in the country.
“The current incessant attacks by 3R gunmen on civilian and military positions is a glaring indication that it wants to be reckoned with in the distribution of the political cards during and after the December elections,” an African diplomat in Bangui declared on Monday.