Visiting Mission to Africa
Council members are set to visit the Central African Republic (CAR); Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and Burundi over a four-day period in March. A briefing about the mission is expected later in the month with a written report to follow.
France is expected to lead the mission in the CAR and will co-lead the visit to Burundi with the US, and also possibly Chad. As Council president for March, France will co-lead the Addis Ababa leg with Angola, the chair of the Council Ad Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa. In Addis Ababa, the headquarters of the AU, the Council will hold its annual consultative meeting with the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC). A joint communiqué is the expected outcome of the meeting.
Since 2007, Council members and PSC members have met annually, alternating between Addis Ababa and New York.
The visit to the CAR will be the Council’s first to the country and comes only months after the deployment of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA) in September 2014.
Members will be keen to observe the security situation and assess progress made in the CAR’s stabilisation. They will seek to gain a better understanding of the challenges that MINUSCA faces in carrying out its mandate. Besides visiting Bangui, members may make a trip into the countryside to observe the mission’s work beyond the city. In addition to meeting the leadership and personnel of MINUSCA, members may also meet with French forces in the country from Operation Sangaris, as well as the EU Force in CAR. At press time, the Council was considering the Secretary-General’s proposal to increase MINUSCA’s troop ceiling by 750 military personnel and 280 police, in light of the expected reduction in the number of French forces and conversion of the EU force, whose mandate expires on 15 March, into a training mission. Though the Council will likely approve MINUSCA’s increased numbers before the visit, members, while in CAR, will want to learn more about how the expansion of MINUSCA and reduction of other international forces could impact current efforts. At present, the mission has yet to reach its originally authorised level of 11,820 military and police personnel, and its presence is limited outside of Bangui.
Council members also expect to meet with the transitional authorities and religious leaders, the latter group Council members met with during an Arria-formula meeting on 14 March 2014. Members will be keen to discuss the political process, including progress in national reconciliation and the prospect for holding presidential and legislative elections by August. The elections had originally been slated for February but were postponed, so members will be keen to learn more about the state of preparations in order for the new timeframe to hold. Likewise, the visit will be an opportunity to observe the humanitarian situation—there are an estimated 438,000 internally displaced persons in addition to the more than 400,000 refugees who have fled the country—and further consider the human rights situation.
In Addis Ababa, the Council will hold its annual meeting with the AU PSC, which began in 2007 as a way to strengthen cooperation between the two bodies and the two organisations. The location for the meeting alternates each year between New York and Addis Ababa. Last year’s meeting was held on 6 June 2014 in New York.
The session will cover a number of situations on the African continent that are of overlapping interest to and on the respective agendas of the two Councils. At press time, the Council was expecting to receive input to the agenda for the meeting from the PSC. At this point, it seems that there is likely to be a segment on Abyei, including a briefing by the Chair of the AU High-Level Implementation Panel Thabo Mbeki. Last year’s session covered the CAR, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Somalia, Darfur and terrorism.
A subject likely to be prominent will be the efforts to address the threat of Boko Haram. The PSC communiqué from its 29 January meeting on Boko Haram authorised the deployment of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) being developed by members of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC)—Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria—and Benin to combat Boko Haram. In addition, the PSC reiterated its call from its 25 November 2014 communiqué for a Security Council resolution that authorises or endorses this force and that facilitates financial support for it. Council members have said that before considering this request, they must receive its concept of operations (CONOPS). The PSC has expressed its intentions to forward the CONOPS to the Council once LCBC countries finalise it. Therefore, the meeting could be an opportunity for the two bodies to discuss the MNJTF and further discuss ways they can collaborate and mutually support efforts to combat Boko Haram.
The mission is also expected to include a one-day visit to the capital of Burundi, Bujumbura. The visit is intended to assess and acknowledge progress achieved in Burundi over the last ten years since the deployment of UN missions to the country. At the end of December 2014, the mandate of the UN Office in Burundi (BNUB) ended. BNUB was replaced on 1 January by the UN Electoral Observer Mission in Burundi. The trip is an opportunity for the Council to reiterate the importance of Burundi holding free and fair legislative and presidential elections, which are scheduled for May and June, and to signal that it is still closely following developments. The Council is expected to meet with Burundian authorities as well as different stakeholders in the electoral process, including representatives of the Independent National Electoral Commission and political parties. Depending on the time available, the members may also arrange meetings with civil society.
Despite Burundi’s progress in achieving security and stability as well as strengthening its democracy, concerns remain among Council members about reports of intimidation and political violence towards opposition parties and human rights activists, as well as government restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression. These concerns were recently reflected in the Council’s 18 February presidential statement. Some members may raise these concerns during the meetings while encouraging the authorities to make further efforts to ensure political space for the opposition.
Moreover, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s apparent intention to run for a third term is generating controversy. The opposition has claimed that this move violates the constitution, and a campaign made up of more than 300 civil society groups was launched in February calling for him not to run and warning that such a run could lead to violence. The visit will provide a possible opportunity for members to further discuss the situation with relevant actors.
The Council last visited Burundi in 2005 after having conducted a series of visits to the country in 1994, 1995, 2001, 2002 and 2004.
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|18 February 2015 S/PRST/2015/6||This was a presidential statement marking the termination of the mandate of BNUB on 31 December 2014.|
|19 January 2015 S/PRST/2015/4||This was a presidential statement condemning attacks by Boko Haram, highlighting the group’s use of children as suicide bombers on 10 and 11 January and Boko Haram’s attack on the town of Baga, Nigeria from 3 to 7 January.|
|Security Council Letters|
|29 January 2015 S/2015/85||This was a letter from the Secretary-General requesting a troop increase for MINUSCA.|
|6 June 2014 S/2014/400||This was the joint communique of the eighth annual consultative meeting between the Council and the PSC.|
Useful Additional Resource
PSC/AHG/COMM.2(CDLXXXIV) (29 January 2015) was the communiqué from the AU PSC’s 484th meeting on regional and international efforts to combat the Boko Haram terrorist group.