In early March, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its third week, a Russian diplomat nearly 3,000 miles away in the Central African Republic paid an unusual visit to the head of this country’s top court. His message was blunt: The country’s pro-Kremlin president must remain in office, indefinitely.
To do this, the diplomat, Yevgeny Migunov, the second secretary at the Russian Embassy, argued that the court should abolish the constitutional restriction limiting a president to two terms. He insisted that President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, who is in his second term and surrounds himself with Russian mercenaries, should stay on, for the good of the country.
“I was absolutely astonished,” recalled Danièle Darlan, 70, then the court’s president, describing for the first time the meeting on March 7. “I warned them that our instability stemmed from presidents wanting to make their rule eternal.”
The Russian was unmoved. Seven months later, in October, Ms. Darlan was ousted by presidential decree in order to open the way for a referendum to rewrite the Constitution, only adopted in 2016, and abolish term limits. This would effectively cement what one Western ambassador called the Central African Republic’s status as a “vassal state” of the Kremlin.
With his invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia unleashed a new disorder on the world. Ukraine has portrayed its fight against becoming another Russian vassal as one for universal freedom, and the cause has resonated in the United States and Europe. But in the Central African Republic, Russia already has its way, with scant Western reaction, and in the flyblown mayhem of its capital, Bangui, a different kind of Russian victory is already on display. [Continue reading…]