April 2013 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 March 2013
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AFRICA

Central African Republic

Expected Council Action

In April, the Council is scheduled hear a briefing in consultations by Margaret Vogt, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA), on developments and the latest Secretary-General’s report on BINUCA. (The report is due by 31 March but may be delayed to reflect the most recent developments.)

BINUCA’s mandate expires on 31 January 2014.

Key Recent Developments

In December 2012, the Séléka rebels—an alliance formed by factions of the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace, the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity and the Wa Kodro Salute Patriotic Convention—took control of several major towns in the Central African Republic (CAR) and advanced on the capital, Bangui, demanding that President François Bozizé step down after failing to implement the 9 May 2008 Libreville Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  

Media reports indicated that, at the request of the government, 2,000 troops from Chad went into the CAR on 18 December to help the army fight the rebels. These troops were sent in addition to the roughly 500 troops who were already there as part of the Mission for the Consolidation of Peace in CAR, a mission of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) that has been in place since 2008. At the request of Bozizé, South Africa sent 200 troops as well. France, which had 250 soldiers already stationed in CAR, increased its deployment to 600 troops to protect its “nationals and interests”. (According to the French foreign ministry, there are roughly 1,200 French citizens in CAR; most of them working for the French nuclear energy group Areva which mines the Bakouma uranium deposit in south CAR.)

On 3 January, Council members were briefed in consultations by Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on recent developments. The following day, the Council issued a press statement demanding that the Seleka rebels halt all hostilities (SC/10877).

A ceasefire and a political agreement were signed between the government and the rebels on 11 January in Libreville, Gabon under the auspices of ECCAS after three days of negotiations. The parties agreed that Bozizé would remain in power until the end of his term in 2016, and a government of national unity—in which opposition leaders were to be given key posts—was formed to implement reforms and hold parliamentary elections. On the same day, the Council was briefed by Vogt via videoconference from Libreville and in person by Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The Council then issued a press statement welcoming the signing of the political agreement (SC/10880).

On 24 January, the Security Council adopted resolution 2088, extending BINUCA’s mandate until 31 January 2014. BINUCA is to support the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration and security sector reform processes—the delays in which were recognised as partially responsible for the current crisis—and to use its good offices to assist the parties in implementing the 11 January Libreville agreements. The Secretary-General was requested to report on the situation on the ground and provide an assessment of the implementation of the mission’s priorities by 31 March, possibly allowing for an adjustment to the mandate.

Renewed fighting between the rebels and the government broke out in mid-March as the Seleka rebels claimed that the government had not fulfilled its promises under the 11 January Libreville agreements. As tensions mounted, France, the penholder on CAR, organised a briefing with Vogt in consultations on 20 March. Vogt informed the Council about reports of widespread rape, looting, recruitment of children and starvation, with villagers hiding in the bush because they feared the rebels. She pointed out that the most violent actions against civilians have come from foreign elements within the rebel alliance. She added that the international community has been absent when it comes to the CAR. The Council then adopted a press statement condemning the recent attacks (SC/10948).

Urgent consultations were convened again on 22 March and the Council was briefed by Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, after which a Council press statement was issued calling for the cessation of hostilities (SC/10955).

The rebels took over Bangui on 24 March, causing Bozizé to flee to Cameroon. Thirteen South African troops were killed during the advance. Michel Djotodia, a Seleka leader, announced the annulment of the constitution and said he would rule by decree until the 2016 scheduled elections. Meanwhile, BINUCA has temporarily relocated uncritical staff to Cameroon.

On 25 March, the AU Peace and Security Council suspended the CAR from participation in AU activities and imposed sanctions on seven Seleka leaders.

The Council heard a briefing by Zerihoun on the situation in the CAR and from Ambassador Michel Tommo Monthe (Cameroon) in a private meeting on the same day. During the following consultations, Council members shared the view that the 11 January Libreville agreements are still the basis for political stability and that the regional organisations are to play the lead role at present. The Council released a press statement condemning the Seleka advancements and noting the AU actions (SC/10960). The statement called for the implementation of the Libreville agreements as the “framework for political transition and the basis for a peaceful solution”. It emphasised the role of ECCAS in facilitating the implementation of the Libreville agreements with the support of the AU. At the insistence of Rwanda, the statement added that the Council will consider further steps if required.

Key Issues

The key issue for the Council is playing a more effective and assertive role.

Achieving synergy with the subregional and regional actors in addressing the aftermath of the coup is a related issue.

Another issue is finding a productive role for BINUCA in the new political reality.

Options

One option is imposing sanctions on the Seleka leadership in light of the AU position.

The Council may consider to amend BINUCA’s mandate in light of the apparent collapse of the 11 January Libreville agreements, in particular the security situation and the wishes of the parties in CAR so that it can be a more relevant actor in achieving political stability. It may give BINUCA a more central and direct role in mediating between warring parties.

Another option is for BINUCA to play a supportive role to regional efforts to bring political stability to the CAR while not moving beyond the Libreville agreements.

Council Dynamics

It appears that in the last several months, the Council has been more focused on other pressing issues, paying relatively little attention to developments on the ground in the CAR, giving preference to other country situations such as Mali and the DRC. As the Seleka forces advanced on Bangui, the Council met several times yet refrained from taking a strong stance in a resolution or presidential statement, reflecting a continued lack of resolve on this issue.

While at present no major discussions have taken place on how to address the situation after the failure of the 11 January Libreville agreements to achieve stability, some Council members are realising that BINUCA’s mandate will have to be revaluated for the UN presence—and the Council—to be relevant in efforts at solving the renewed crisis in the CAR. A key factor in this respect is the position of the opposing sides in the CAR and that of ECCAS.

Several Council members, including some permanent ones, are cautious of singling out a specific side to the conflict and prefer deploring the situation in general. Others, including the African members of the Council seem to be advocating a more aggressive approach towards the rebels in line with the recent AU sanctions.    

UN Documents on CAR

Security Council Resolution
24 January 2013 S/RES/2088 extended the mandate of BINUCA until 31 January 2014.
Secretary-General’s Report
21 December 2012 S/2012/956 was the latest report on BINUCA
Security Council Meeting Record
11 January 2013 S/PV.6899 was a briefing on the latest BINUCA report.
Security Council Press Statements
25 March 2013 SC/10960 condemned the seizure of power by the Seleka.
22 March 2013 SC/10955 called for the cessation of hostilities.
20 March 2013 SC/10948 condemned recent attacks by the Seleka and called on all sides to abide by their respective commitments.
11 January 2013 SC/10880 welcomed the signing of the Libreville ceasefire and political agreement. 
4 January 2013 SC/10877 demanded that the Seleka rebels cease all hostilities.
27 December 2012 SC/10874 called on the rebels to cease hostilities and supported the efforts of ECCAS to solve the crisis.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of BINUCA
Margaret Vogt (Nigeria)

BINUCA Size and Composition
Strength as of 31 December 2012: 67 international civilians, 84 local civilians, two military advisers, two police and five UN volunteers 

BINUCA Duration
1 January 2010 to present