February 2021 Monthly Forecast

Posted 29 January 2021
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AFRICA

Central African Republic

Expected Council Action

In February, the Council will discuss the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), which is due by 15 February. The Council will be briefed by Mankeur Ndiaye, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Central African Republic (CAR) and head of MINUSCA.

The mandate of MINUSCA expires on 15 November 2021. The CAR sanctions regime expires on 31 July 2021, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts supporting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee expires on 31 August 2021.

Key Recent Developments

Since the Council’s 12 November 2020 adoption of resolution 2552, which extended MINUSCA’s mandate by one year, the security and political situation in the CAR has deteriorated considerably. The country has suffered a series of attacks by an alliance of armed groups, known as the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), against Central African armed forces (FACA) and MINUSCA in towns across the CAR in the run-up to, and following, the 27 December 2020 presidential elections.

One week before the presidential elections, armed groups attacked several towns outside Bangui, CAR’s capital.  MINUSCA forces were deployed on 20 December 2020 to two municipalities to the north-west of Bangui that had been attacked by the armed groups. On 21 December, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix briefed Council members on the escalating situation under “any other business”. On 23 December, MINUSCA reported that it had retaken control of the town of Bambari, 235 miles north-east of Bangui, which had briefly fallen to armed groups. On the same day, the Council approved Secretary-General António Guterres’ proposal to temporarily redeploy two infantry companies and two military utility helicopters from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to assist MINUSCA for a two-month period. On 25 December, three MINUSCA peacekeepers from Burundi died following an attack by armed opposition groups in Dékoa, approximately 160 miles north of Bangui.

Presidential elections were held on 27 December 2020. International media sources reported numerous low-level violent incidents on election day, and there were reports that voting did not take place in 29 of CAR’s 71 sub-prefectures. On 30 December, the Democratic Opposition Coalition (COD-2020), which consists of a number of opposition presidential candidates, called for the results to be annulled, claiming that there had been widespread fraud. Despite this, the head of CAR’s National Elections Authority declared on 4 January that incumbent president Faustin-Archange Touadéra had won re-election, gaining an absolute majority of 53.9 percent of the vote in the first round, obviating the need for a second round in February. On 18 January, CAR’s Constitutional Court certified Touadéra as the winner.

Numerous attacks have taken place since the elections, including a 2 January assault by armed forces allied with former CAR president François Bozizé on the town of Damara, which lies 50 miles north of Bangui, and a 3 January assault on the town of Bangassou, some 450 miles east of Bangui along CAR’s border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). On 9 January, several armed groups attacked the towns of Bouar, some 270 miles north-west of Bangui, and Grimari, approximately 185 miles north-east of Bangui. In both instances, MINUSCA assisted the FACA to repulse the attacks; in Bouar, MINUSCA deployed air assets in support of their operations.

On 13 January, Security Council members again discussed the situation in the CAR under “any other business” at the request of France. Lacroix briefed on the situation, focusing on MINUSCA’s operation in the context of the rising violence. Two days later, following the arrival of reinforcements, MINUSCA troops regained control of Bangassou, offering protection to Bangassou’s civilian population and stopping the looting that had followed the retreat of armed groups.

On 18 January, two more MINUSCA peacekeepers—from Gabon and Morocco—were killed on the outskirts of Bangassou when their convoy was ambushed by armed groups. In a press statement on 18 January, Council members expressed their condolences to the families of the killed peacekeepers. The press statement also warned that “attacks against peacekeepers may constitute war crimes” and reminded “all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law”.

According to the mission, seven MINUSCA peacekeepers have been killed since the recent unrest began and 60,000 refugees have fled across CAR’s border into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, DRC, and the Republic of the Congo. Another 58,000 persons are displaced within CAR. The CAR authorities have blamed the outbreak of violence on groups affiliated with Bozizé, who announced on 25 July that he would run in the elections, but whose candidacy was rejected by CAR’s Supreme Court on 3 December. (Bozizé was listed under Security Council sanctions in 2014 for “engaging in or providing support for acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of CAR”.) MINUSCA, in a press release dated 18 January, also attributed the violence to “allies” of the former president.

On 21 January, at the request of the CAR government, the Council met again. Ndiaye told the Council via videoconference that the deployment of reinforcements from UNMISS had “lifted morale among MINUSCA personnel” but that the CPC appeared to be “increasingly aggressive”. He subsequently requested an increase in both troops and police officers within the framework of inter-mission cooperation. CAR Foreign Minister Sylvie Baïpo-Temon, also participating in the meeting, requested the Council to fully lift the arms embargo that has been imposed on the CAR since the adoption of resolution 2127 in 2013. Council members issued a press statement on 22 January. That same day, the CAR authorities announced a 15-day state of emergency. On 24 January, the CPC reportedly surrounded Bangui, cutting off the capital’s main supply route with Cameroon. According to international media, over 1,600 trucks–including those carrying food, medicine and humanitarian assistance–were stranded. On 25 January, the CAR government announced that FACA troops, working with “allied forces”, reportedly a reference to Russian and Rwandan troops, pushed back the CPC forces.

Human Rights-Related Developments

In a 15 January statement, the independent expert on human rights in the CAR, Yao Agbetse, said that “thousands of Central Africans were unable to exercise their right to vote” and that “many were victims of torture or ill-treatment and death threats for exercising their right to vote” during elections in December 2020. The CPC had obstructed elections, including by preventing the dissemination of election materials and burning polling stations, the statement added. Agbetse urged MINUSCA, the Special Criminal Court, and the ICC promptly to investigate serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed by the CPC and other armed groups and called on the Security Council, including the CAR Sanctions Committee, to impose consequences on those individuals involved.

Key Issues and Options

There are two immediate issues for the Council to consider in the context of the recent resurgence of violence: the first pertains to providing the mission with the resources needed to address the fresh violence and allow it to fulfil its protection of civilians mandate, provide assistance to the CAR authorities to stabilise the situation, and demonstrate the Council’s unified support for MINUSCA. The Council may wish to adopt a resolution that offers further concrete support to the mission and the CAR authorities.

The second issue relates to the arms embargo. Over the past year, China and Russia have taken the view that the Council should go further in easing the arms embargo with the aim of lifting it completely. A number of other Council members have argued that there is little room for further adjustments in light of the political and security situations and the limited progress that has been made on achieving the benchmarks for progressively lifting or suspending the arms embargo. However, in light of the CAR foreign minister’s request to lift the embargo, the Council may wish to revisit this issue well in advance of the sanctions regime renewal anticipated in July.

Council and Wider Dynamics

There is consensus among Council members for providing the mission with the resources needed to quell the recent violence in the country and ensure that the mission can fulfil its protection of civilians mandate. In addition, Council members agree on the need for accountability for the perpetrators of the recent violence and a recommitment by all of the signatories of the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation to its full implementation. However, lifting of the arms embargo has become a contentious issue for the Council over the past year. These differences were again demonstrated during the 21 January Council session.

France is the penholder on the CAR, and Ambassador Abdou Abarry (Niger) chairs the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS ON THE CAR

Security Council Resolutions
12 November 2020S/RES/2552 This resolution extended the mandate of MINUSCA for one year until 15 November 2021.
28 July 2020S/RES/2536 This resolution extended the CAR sanctions regime until 31 July 2021, including an arms embargo with some exemptions, and renewed the mandate of the CAR Panel of Experts, who assist the Sanctions Committee to oversee the sanction measures, until 31 August 2021.
Secretary-General’s Reports
12 October 2020S/2020/994 This was the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
Security Council Meeting Records
19 October 2020S/PV.8771 This was a briefing on the latest Secretary-General’s report (S/2020/994) on MINUSCA.