Sidiki Abass, leader of the Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation or 3R armed group, died on March 25 in a health center in Kambakota, about 320 km north of the capital, Bangui, according to a statement signed by “General Bobbo” . , who describes himself as the new leader of the group.
Abass, whose real name is Bi Sidi Souleymane, died of injuries sustained in an attack on the town of Bossembele, 130 km northwest of Bangui, on November 16 last year, the statement said. of General Bobbo.
In December, 3R joined the Coalition of Patriots for Change, an alliance of some of the most powerful armed groups in the war-torn country.
The alliance launched an offensive two weeks before the presidential elections on December 27 with the aim of preventing a victory for President Faustin-Archange Touadera and to overthrow his government.
The well-equipped 3Rs were at the forefront of the fight against pro-government forces, eventually reaching an area about 100 km (about 60 miles) from Bangui.
UN and security sources disputed the group’s claim that Abass was wounded on November 16 – before the rebel offensive – and instead dated it to the initial fighting in December, when his convoy was ambushed.
Rumors of his death had since spread, but were never confirmed by 3R.
The country’s military, with the help of hundreds of Rwandan soldiers and Russian paramilitaries, has led a counteroffensive since January, retaking most of the towns previously occupied by the rebels.
If the 3R has been repulsed, there remains a force in the northwest, aided by its knowledge of the terrain.
The US Treasury Department and the UN imposed sanctions on Abass in August last year, accusing the group he founded in 2015 of killing, torturing, raping and displacing thousands of people. The UN has also accused Abass of directly participating in the torture.
In 2019, Human Rights Watch accused 3R of killing at least 46 civilians in the northwestern province of Ouham Pende. The killings took place just months after Abass signed a peace accord in Khartoum with the CAR government and 13 other armed groups.
“The killings of these civilians are war crimes that must be effectively investigated and those responsible brought to justice,” Human Rights Watch said at the time.
Despite this, the 3R remained an integral part of the Khartoum Accord and continued to dominate in the northwest, where it controls taxes on lucrative livestock movements from neighboring Cameroon and Chad.
Relations between Abass and the government deteriorated, and in June 2020, UN troops launched an operation against 3R bases in the northwest to clear roads where illegal checkpoints had been set up to collect tolls.
But 3R militia fighters continued to fuel insecurity in the region, leading attacks on convoys, resulting in the death of a Rwandan peacekeeper in July 2020.
The violence of recent months is just the latest outbreak of a civil war that has lasted eight years since the overthrow of President François Bozize.
Bozize had seized power in the former French colony in 2003 and was overthrown a decade later, an act that sparked a sectarian-type civil war. A spokesperson for Bozize said in March that the former president had agreed to take over the rebel alliance.