Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In April, the Council is due to renew the mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Prior to the renewal, the Special Representative Babacar Gaye will brief the Council on the latest MINUSCA report.
Key Recent Developments
The situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) remains dire. In late January, a truce was signed in Nairobi by representatives of the Muslim ex–Séléka and the Christian anti-Balaka groups. However, the Nairobi talks and the truce did not include the CAR transitional government and were rejected by the latter and the members of the Economic Community of Central African States. The truce has not calmed the situation on the ground either, as fighting and violence continue. While the security situation in Bangui has improved, criminal violence in the city continues.
Council members visited the CAR on 10 and 11 March. This first ever Council visit to the country was co-led by France and Angola as the first leg of an Africa trip that also included Burundi and the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. Council members received briefings from UN officials, including the head of the UN Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), Abdoulaye Bathily, and Gaye and met representatives of the French forces in the CAR and EUFOR (the 700-strong EU force in the CAR). Council members also met with the transitional president of the CAR, Katherine Samba-Panza, and her cabinet; the president of the National Authority for Elections, Dieudonné Kombo-Yaya; and representatives of the National Transitional Council.
Council members heard from MINUSCA that the security situation was gradually improving, though security gaps remain, including insufficient deployment in eastern CAR and a shortage of helicopters.
On the political process, members stressed to local officials the importance of the Bangui Forum (a forum dedicated to national reconciliation and dialogue on the political future of the CAR), currently scheduled for April, and of continued preparations for the legislative and presidential elections, currently scheduled for July and August, respectively. Local authorities highlighted certain challenges to Council members, including monetary shortages for the transitional process and for the elections. Bathily and some MINUSCA officials expressed concerns about the government’s political will to follow through on the transitional process and warned of the possibility that members of the various transitional bodies, including the president, may run for election, in contravention of the 18 April 2013 N’Djamena Declaration that outlined the transition process and banned such participation.
Council members also travelled to the eastern town of Bria, where they met with recently reinstated local authorities, civil society groups and ex-Séléka members. (On 11 February, MINUSCA, with the assistance of French forces, carried out an attack against the Popular Front for the Renaissance of Central Africa, a faction of the ex-Séléka, which had set up a de-facto parallel administration in Bria, removing local authorities. The operation reportedly resulted in the deaths of seven rebels and achieved its goal of removing the rebels from their strongholds but exposed nearby villages to reprisal attacks by the ex-Séléka, causing their inhabitants to flee.)
Council members visited the CAR against the backdrop of EUFOR’s mandate expiration on 15 March. EUFOR was assigned to secure Bangui’s airport and other locations in the city. In its stead, the EU authorised a military advisory mission (EUMAM) to advise the security authorities on the conduct of security sector reforms and on army training programmes. The French force, which numbered 2,000 troops, has also begun reducing its contingent. France is expected to cut the force to about 500 troops by the end of 2015.
The situation of the Muslims in the CAR remains a major concern. In several areas, including in Bangui, Muslims who did not flee their homes remain isolated in their neighbourhoods with limited mobility. Outside of Bangui, where MINUSCA’s presence is sparse, security remains lacking. In comments to reporters in New York on 18 March, US Ambassador Samantha Power lamented the fact that out of 436 mosques in the CAR, 417 have been destroyed in the conflict. She noted her impression, from the Council’s visit to a remaining Muslim neighbourhood in Bangui, that the Muslim population lives in constant fear.
A pending issue while the Council visited the CAR was the request by the Secretary-General to increase troops for MINUSCA by 750 military personnel, 280 police and 20 corrections officers. In response, France, the penholder on the CAR, circulated a concise and technical draft resolution on 4 February authorising the troop increase. On 10 February, the US requested a briefing from the Secretariat to get more information on the current operations of MINUSCA, remaining gaps and expected costs of the reinforcements. On 26 February, Council members were briefed by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous under “any other business” on this issue. On 26 March, the Council adopted resolution 2212 authorising the troop increase.
The International Contact Group on the CAR met in Brazzaville on 16 March, with 27 countries participating along with MINUSCA, UNOCA and several international monetary institutions and international organisations. The participants noted the importance of the deadlines for the transitional process, including the Bangui Forum, timely elections and continued talks about the disarmament of all armed groups. They also stressed the need to avoid any parallel negotiations outside of the CAR, thus rejecting the Nairobi talks. The participants also welcomed an EU initiative to hold a donor conference on 24 April in Brussels to support the political process. The Contact Group is next expected to meet in June in Addis Ababa.
On 22 January, the Council adopted resolution 2196, renewing the CAR sanctions regime (arms embargo, assets freeze and travel ban) until 29 January 2016 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee until 29 February 2016.
On 9 February, the Sanctions Committee was briefed by the UN Mine Action Service, on its work in the CAR where it has been rehabilitating, constructing and managing storage facilities and storing stockpiles of small arms and light weapons. (The briefing was the initiative of Lithuania, the chair of the Committee.)
Also in February, Committee members received an update report from the Panel on various issues, including natural resources and the humanitarian situation. (Resolution 2196 authorises the Panel to submit progress updates to the Committee as the Panel deems necessary.)
At press time, the Committee was scheduled to meet with the Panel on 31 March to receive an overview of the Panel’s planned work until the end of its current mandate.
The designations of 12 individuals and three entities suggested for sanctioning by the Panel are still pending in the Committee.
Human Rights-Related Developments
The independent expert on the CAR for the Human Rights Council, Marie-Thérèse Keita Bocoum, visited the country from 3 to 14 February. In a statement released on 12 February in Bangui, Bocoum highlighted five areas of concern, namely the rights of the Muslim minority, which she observed as still unable to participate fully in the political, economic and social life of the country; internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the need for the government to formulate a strategy to facilitate their safe return; attacks against civilians; the fight against impunity, including security sector reform; and the need for reconciliation, particularly through interreligious platforms.
The Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kyung-wha Kang; the special rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs, Chaloka Beyani; and the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Office Director of Operations, Jean-Louis de Brouwer, conducted a high-level mission to the CAR from 10 to 14 February, visiting Bambari, Yaloke, Mpoko and the PK5 neighbourhood in Bangui. In a 14 February press conference, they called for greater access to and protection of IDPs and vulnerable communities, noting their concern that armed groups were present at all the camps and sites they visited and stressing the need to take the necessary steps to preserve the camps’ civilian nature. The delegation highlighted the primary responsibility of the transitional authorities to protect the population but added that humanitarian partners can do more in identifying the most vulnerable and supporting local and religious authorities and civil society in providing adequate services and protection, in particular to women and children.
The immediate issue for the Council is what modifications may be needed when renewing MINUSCA’s mandate.
Monitoring the situation closely, in particular MINUSCA’s operations to restore security throughout the CAR, including in rural areas, will be an ongoing key issue.
In the period leading up to the elections, ensuring the success of the transitional political process will be an important issue.
Also a key issue is ensuring accountability for human rights and international humanitarian law violations.
Options for the Council while renewing MINUSCA’s mandate include:
- calling on the transitional authorities to abide by their commitment to the transitional process;
- stressing the Council’s long-term commitment to CAR’s stabilisation and rebuilding; and
- emphasising the importance of holding fair and free elections in a timely manner.
An option for the Sanctions Committee is endorsing the recommendations of the Panel and listing further individuals.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members are in general agreement that the visiting mission was instrumental in understanding the current state of affairs in the CAR in terms of the security challenges and gaps (particularly in rural areas), the humanitarian situation and the political process.
The departure of EUFOR and gradual drawdown of the French troops add additional concerns over MINUSCA’s ability to fill the gap at the current troop level. For these reasons Council members, including the US, were amenable to an increase in MINUSCA’s troop ceiling. It seems that they were also left with the impression that while some security improvements are noticeable, a year after establishing MINUSCA, CAR is still in the stabilisation stage.
As for the political process, after meeting with the political interlocutors in the CAR, some Council members had questions about the commitment of the transitional authorities to the process. They were also left with the impression that it will be difficult to observe the current timeframe for elections, already postponed from their original date.
France is the penholder on the CAR.
|Security Council Resolutions|
|26 March 2015 S/RES/2212||This resolution authorised an increase to MINUSCA’s troop ceiling.|
|22 January 2015 S/RES/2196||This was a resolution renewing the CAR sanctions regime until 29 January 2016 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee until 29 February 2016.|
|10 April 2014 S/RES/2149||This resolution established the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) with an initial deployment of up to 10,000 military and 1,800 police personnel.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|18 March 2015 S/PV.7407||This was a briefing on the Security Council mission to Africa: Central African Republic, African Union and Burundi from 9-13 March 2015.|
|Security Council Letters|
|29 January 2015 S/2015/85||This was a letter from the Secretary-General requesting a troop increase for MINUSCA.|
Other Relevant Facts
Special Representative and Head of MINUSCA
Babacar Gaye (Senegal)
MINUSCA Force Commander
Major General Martin Chomu Tumenta (Cameroon)
MINUSCA Size, Composition and Cost of Mission
Strength as of 28 February 2015: 7,973 military personnel, 116 military observers and 1,196 police, 234 international civilian personnel, 123 local civilian staff and 18 UN volunteers.
Mission Duration: 10 April 2014 to present
Approved budget (1 July 2014 – 31 December 2014): $253.4 million