Wednesday

1st Feb 2023

EU mission in Africa goes on spending spree

  • The EU military training mission in Central African Republic (Photo: eeas.europa.eu)
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The EU's civilian mission in the Central African Republic is bankrolling office supplies to security ministries, while incurring huge expenses on its own.

Set up in 2019, the mission aims to extend the state's authority in a country whose army has been cooperating with Kremlin-linked Russian private military contractor Wagner Group.

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The EU over the summer earmarked €28.4m to extend the mission until late 2024 in an effort to boost Central African Republic's internal security forces.

Part of the money is going towards interior ministries and the police, including oddities like storage containers [€50,000] and €10,000 worth of USB keys, computer mice and power cables.

Other items include 11 radio sets for prisons managers in Bangui and Bimbo for €20,000, while the air and border police will get 200 packs of cardboard cards and five pieces of furniture for another €7,000.

The EU is throwing some money to the country's national commission of human rights, totalling €5,000 worth of USB keys and other computer supplies.

State-building or currying relations

The purchases provide an insight into the EU currying relations with state ministries in what it says are part of a larger effort to "support the build-up of rule-based governance and management capacities."

This also includes seminars on gender and human rights.

However, the bulk of the funds is going towards the mission itself, including staff salaries, running expenditures, office rent and travel costs to Europe and back.

EUobserver has obtained a detailed glimpse into a breakdown of those expenses, split into two periods, from an internal EU document dated 18 July.

Some €14.7m has been set aside for August 2022 to August 2023, while the remaining €13.7m will be used up until August 2024.

The breakdown poses numerous questions on how exactly the funds are intended to help establish authority for a government that struggles to even maintain control of the capital, Bangui.

In a sign of the insecurity surrounding the task, the mission has eight armoured vehicles and intends to spend €235,000 for its own armoury, equipped with ammunition, spare parts, as well as shooting range equipment.

But the breakdown also poses rights questions on working with security and interior ministries, following the EU's decision last year to no longer train the military given the state had co-opted Russian mercenaries.

Those mercenaries had taken command of at least one EU-trained battalion in the Central African Republic. In July, the EU proposed to extend the military training anyway.

Local vs EU wage disparity

The disparity between salaries of locals working at the EU mission, compared to Europeans, is also striking.

While a local working in the head of office is paid €1,700 a month, an international contracted staff with a similar role is paid €4,650.

The EU's head of mission takes home €19,000 a month. Including travel and other allowances, his overall pay for the two year mission is €483,000.

Meanwhile, just over €20,000 is going towards team-building activities to create "a good atmosphere in the workplace."

Another €7,000 is slated for one year of newspaper subscriptions, while €30,000 is going towards stationary over the same 12-month period.

An accessories kit, including a mouse, keyboard and headset with microphone, is set to cost €20,000. A printer with toner and image drum €18,159,06. Both are listed for use by only one personnel.

Over €538,000 has also been set aside for 74 flights to Europe per year. And another €11m is for running expenditures to maintain a fleet of 32 vehicles, pay office rent (€900,000/year) compound accommodation rental cost (€2.2m/year), as well as other expenses.

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