Central African Republic Accuses A European Ngo Worker Arrested Last Week Of Spying

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — Authorities in the Central African Republic are investigating a European aid worker who was arrested last week in a restive area of the country on spying charges, the public prosecutor's office said.

Martin Joseph Figueira, a consultant for the American nongovernmental organization FHI360, is being accused of being in communication with armed groups to plot a coup, thereby jeopardizing national security, according to a statement from the prosecutor's office.

He also allegedly incited "hatred and revolt” against the country's military, supported subversive groups and used false documents.

Figueira holds a Belgian and a Portuguese passport, the statement said. In his Belgian passport he goes under the name of Martin Joseph Edouard.

FHI360, a public health NGO that manages projects related to family planning and reproductive health, confirmed that one of their workers is in the custody in Central African Republic.

“We are working to secure our consultant’s immediate release,” the NGO's spokesperson Jennifer Garcia told The Associated Press.

Figueira was arrested last week in Zemio, a town in southeastern Central African Republic that has been plagued by fighting between local ethnic militias and anti-government rebels for over a decade.

“He was caught red-handed,” asserted a special advisor to the president, Fidèle Gouandjika, without elaborating.

Authorities have warned foreign NGO workers against taking part in activities that could jeopardize national security or face judicial proceedings.

On Saturday, the military was deployed to Zemio, after more than six years of absence from the town. The Russian mercenary group Wagner, which for years has had a significant a presence in Central African Republic, was also deployed there to train local militias and recruit them for the army.

The mercenaries also guard the country’s gold and diamond mines, have helped to hold off armed rebel groups and keep President Faustin-Archange Touadera, who has been in office since 2016, in power. Wagner's fighters have been accused by rights groups and civilians of committing abuses and exploiting the country's resources.

Central African Republic has been in conflict since 2013, when predominantly Muslim rebels seized power and forced then-president, François Bozizé, from office. Mostly Christian militias fought back. A 2019 peace deal helped slow the fighting but six of the 14 armed groups that signed later left the agreement.

A U.N. peacekeeping mission and Rwandan troops are currently deployed in Central African Republic to try to quell the violence and protect civilians.


Banchereau reported from Dakar, Senegal.