Four French soldiers escorting a UN force general were arrested Monday at Bangui airport, immediately triggering accusations of an "assassination attempt" on the Central African president on social networks. Paris and the UN mission in the country have described the accusations as gross manipulation.
The four men were still in the premises of the gendarmerie in the evening, an official of the French military staff in Paris told AFP, adding: "the problem is being resolved, at this stage, there is no concern".
"The close protection team of General (Stéphane) Marchenoir, Chief of Staff of the Force of the Minusca (United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic), composed of four French soldiers, was arrested this afternoon at Bangui airport" while escorting the general who was to fly to Paris, the embassy said in a statement on its Twitter and Facebook accounts.
- French-Russian war of influence -
Many private accounts were then spread on social networks in accusations against the French military claiming in particular that they had wanted to "assassinate" the Central African President Faustin Archange Touadéra, with many photos of their alleged vehicle and weapons "seized" during their arrest.
This incident comes at a time when relations between France and its former colony are increasingly tense, exacerbated by a fierce war of influence between Paris and Moscow, in this country in civil war since 2013.
France accuses the Central African Republic of being "complicit" in an anti-French campaign orchestrated by Moscow, particularly through countless trolls on social networks and in some media. And Moscow blames Paris for accusing the Russian private security company Wagner of having seized power and resources in the country.
"The embassy deeply regrets this incident. It condemns its immediate instrumentalization on some malicious networks and the gross misinformation to which it gives rise," wrote the diplomatic representation Monday evening.