An anti-government militia was responsible for “horrific acts” in south CAR, according to the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission, a division of the United Nations.
The report detailed a 2021 incident. Allegedly, about two dozen fighters killed 20 Boyo villagers in a weeklong occupation that included multiple rapes and other atrocities. These fighters included former members of a Christian militia as well as local mercenaries. “I strongly condemn these horrific acts,” UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in a statement. “The government must put an end to all violations, whether by its forces, affiliated pro-Government militias, or foreign private military contractors, and hold all those directly and indirectly involved to account,” he added.
In response, government authorities insisted the allegations were “not corroborated by the evidence.”
Situation in the CAR
The Central African Republic is an extreme country. Religiously, it straddles the line between the predominantly Mulsim north and the predominantly Christian south. Both faiths have more than their share of extremists. Economically, the CAR has some of the most abundant and valuable natural resources in the world. Yet only one other country in the world has a lower Human Development Index score.
These extremes fuel the ongoing civil war, a chaotic, multi-party conflict which began in the mid 2010s. Currently, government forces control most of the country’s west. Rebels control most of the east. Séléka, a Muslim militia, and Anti-balaka, a Christian militia, are the two largest rebel groups. Reflecting the aforementioned extremes, the differences between the rebels are also economic. Séléka fighters are mostly nomads, and Anti-balaka fighters are mostly farmers. Both are upset about tight government control over the country’s natural resources. Fighting amongst these groups has created over a million refugees in a country of barely five million people.
In December 2020, a bad situation took a turn for the worse. Several rebel groups formed the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) and began advancing against government forces. In response, Russia sent 300 military advisors to prop up President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, who immediately won a second term in a controversial election.
The next month, Touadéra declared a state of emergency and, with the help of Russian mercenaries, began driving the rebels back. The Wagner Group’s arrival drove a wedge between Touadéra and France, the CAR’s former colonial master, sending Touadéra even closer to Russia.
Contractors in Africa
As of now, no American private military contractors are in the Central African Republic. But that could change. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael E. Langley, the new head of U.S. Africa Command, recently told lawmakers he would prioritize intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to stop Russian and terrorist aggression in the AFRICOM region. These duties are tailor-made for private military contractors.
Gen. Langley, the first nonwhite four-star general in the Marine Corps, is the son of an Air Force pilot.
Many contractors are former law enforcement officers. These individuals know how to play one group against another and develop relationships inside a community with individuals who would not be willing to help otherwise. The intelligence they gather is often more important than manpower or anything else in a firefight.
Additionally, many private military contractors are not U.S. residents. Instead, many contractors employ locals. These people overcome the language barrier as well as the cultural barrier.
Generally, the S-word is a euphemism for sitting and watching. Service academies and drill sergeants train servicemembers to act, not to watch. So, they often do not adapt well to surveillance duties.
In contrast, watching and waiting is what many contractors do best. As mentioned, many of them are former law enforcement officers. Since peace officers usually spend long hours on patrol, they know how to stay alert when there is not much action. Additionally, these contractors know how to spot signs of trouble and deter evildoers just by maintaining a presence.
At the same time, if things heat up in a hurry, contractors are ready for action. There is no need to call for replacements to take care of the bad guys.
Surveillance requires patience. Reconnaissance, on the other hand, usually requires advanced drones, satellites, and other equipment. Contractors know how to maintain this equipment. In many cases, they worked for the company that designed and/or built it.
Reconnaissance is also more proactive than surveillance. It gives contractors more of an opportunity to head off threats. So, other than intelligence, reconnaissance might be the most important contractor duty in places like the Central African Republic.
On a related note, contractors are excellent trainers. The end goal of any foreign intervention is to stabilize the situation and leave as quickly as possible. Effective training makes these goals more attainable. The sooner a government or sympathetic rebel mechanic knows how to keep equipment operational, the sooner contractors can go home.
Injury Compensation Available
These seemingly diverse contractor activities have at least one thing in common. They’re all dangerous. An injury could mean several months of forced, and unpaid, down time. Independent contractors do not have PTO. To ease the financial strain these contractors and their families must deal with, several wage replacement benefit categories are available under the Defense Base Act.
- Temporary Total Disability: Most contractor injuries are TTD injuries. These victims must completely rest as they recover from their injuries. Under the DBA, victims who are unable to work usually receive two-thirds of their AWW (average weekly wage) until an independent doctor clears them to return to work.
- Temporary Partial Disability: Frequently, as they recover, victims “graduate” from TTD to TPD. Recovering injury victims can go back to work, but they cannot go out in the field and can only work part time. Partial lost wage replacement makes this transition easier. TPD benefits are usually two-thirds of the difference between the victim’s old and new incomes.
- Permanent Partial Disability: Frequently, this permanent injury category overlaps with the temporary injury categories. Many physical wounds never entirely heal. For example, if Max seriously breaks his shoulder, he may have limited range of motion in that joint for the rest of his life. In such cases, a one-time payment is usually available, depending on the nature and extent of the disability.
- Permanent Total Disability: If the lost range of motion is severe enough, Max’s lingering shoulder injury could be totally disabling. This determination depends on medical and non-medical factors, such as education, training, and experience. No amount of money can fully compensate victims who cannot ever work again and support their families. But, a one-time payment helps.
These categories not only overlap. They are also rather subjective. Fortunately, most DBA victims can choose their own doctors. So, they get treatment and support from a physician who is on their side, as opposed to a company doctor who, at best, has divided loyalties.
For more information about DBA procedure, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.