Bi Sidi Souleymane

By Taiwo Okanlawon

The United States has imposed sanctions against Bi Sidi Souleymane, the leader of the Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation (3R) rebel group in the Central African Republic.

According to a statement by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Friday, the group is accused of committing numerous human rights abuses and displacing thousands in the troubled country since 2015.

The sanctions freeze the rebel leader’s assets and impose a travel ban on Souleymane, also known as Sidiki Abbas. Souleymane directly perpetrated torture, the statement said.

“Today’s action signals that the United States will not tolerate those who commit human rights abuses and will prevent such actors from benefiting from the U.S. financial system,” said the statement.

The move by the U.S. follows similar sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council earlier this week.

Under Souleymane’s leadership, 3R also carried out campaigns of rape, arms trafficking and violence.

“For instance, on 21 May 2019, 3R killed 34 unarmed civilians in three villages, summarily executing adult males,” the UN Security Council said.

“Bi Sidi Souleymane openly confirmed to a UN Entity that he had ordered 3R elements to the villages on the date of the attacks, but did not admit to giving the orders for 3R to kill,” it added.

Souleymane signed a 2019 peace agreement and was appointed a military advisor to the government of Prime Minister Firmin Ngrébada.

In 2020, however, he announced the group’s withdrawal from the agreement following a disagreement over his role and returned to the bush.