Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In January, the Council is expected to renew the sanctions on the Central African Republic (CAR), which expire on 29 January 2016, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 2127 Sanctions Committee, which expires on 29 February 2016.
The mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) expires on 30 April 2016.
Key Recent Developments
Violence in the CAR continues as the country heads towards elections, marking the end of the transitional period. At press time, the first round of elections was scheduled for 27 December 2015, with a second round on 31 January 2016 if necessary.
Protests broke out in the capital city of Bangui on 8 December 2015 when the Constitutional Court rejected the bid of exiled former President François Bozize to run in the presidential elections. Bozize is listed on the 2127 sanctions list, but the Panel of Experts has reported that he has been travelling freely in the region, undermining the transitional political process.
Another individual on the sanctions list, Nourredine Adam—the leader of the Patriotic Front for the Renaissance of Central Africa (FPRC), a faction of the ex-Séléka rebel group—said on the radio that the group will not allow the elections to take place in areas under its control in the north-east of the CAR. On 14 December 2015, Adam declared an autonomous state in his north-eastern stronghold, “the Republic of Logone”, with its capital in Kaga-Bandoro (located 245 kilometres north of Bangui).
To maintain security during the elections, the Council authorised on 19 November 2015 the temporary deployment to MINUSCA of 300 Senegalese troops currently serving in Côte d’Ivoire for a period of eight weeks. (The request was presented to the Council by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous during consultations on 16 November.) On 6 December, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that France would maintain its current troop level in the CAR (900 troops) until the newly elected president is able to assert control over the country.
Pope Francis visited the CAR on 29-30 November 2015. The pope met with religious and civic leaders and visited the Koudoukou mosque in the Bangui’s PK5 neighbourhood, where 15,000 Muslims remain confined (out of about 120,000 that lived there when violence erupted in March 2013). The pope called on the factions fighting in the CAR to lay down their weapons and arm themselves “with justice, love, mercy and authentic peace”. According to media sources, a temporary pact was signed between Muslim ex-Séléka rebels and Christian anti-Balaka rebels to allow the visit to go smoothly.
Despite the calm during the pontiff’s visit, violence ensued soon after. In one incident on 3 December 2015, ex-Séléka rebels attacked a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ngakobo (about 60 kilometres south of Bambari), leading to the death of eight IDPs and five rebels. Several people were injured, including a UN peacekeeper who was among those intervening to stop the attack. This incident was in addition to previous attacks on IDP camps that resulted in casualties in November.
Ladsous briefed the Council on 14 December 2015. In the consultations that followed, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MINUSCA, updated the Council on the constitutional referendum that took place the day before. He said that 60 percent of eligible voters participated. He commented that only 70 percent of the polls were open, due to intimidation by both anti-Balaka elements and the FPRC and to fighting that broke out in the PK5 neighbourhood, in which five people were killed (apparently the referendum was extended for an extra day in areas hit by violence). Onanga-Anyanga added that MINUSCA will draw lessons from the conduct of the referendum ahead of Election Day.
At press time, Council members were negotiating a press statement on the holding of the referendum and stressing the importance of free, fair and inclusive elections. It seems that the main point of disagreement between Council members is whether the Council should just take note of the referendum or refer to its conduct with more positive language.
On the issue of sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers, four French troops stationed in the CAR were interrogated by the Paris Prosecutor’s Office for their part in the alleged abuse of children that took place from December 2013 to June 2014. The report of the three-member panel appointed by the Secretary-General to review how the UN handled the sexual abuse reports, following allegations that senior UN officials failed to respond adequately, was released on 17 December. It found systematic failures in UN reporting chains and inadequate responses by some UN officials on the ground to reports of sexual abuse, including by the then-head of MINUSCA, Babacar Gaye. Several incidents of alleged sexual misconduct by international peacekeepers in the CAR have surfaced over the last year, causing the Secretary-General to ask for the resignation of Gaye in August 2015.
On 3 December 2015, the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee and the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict held a joint meeting, during which they were briefed by the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui. Zerrougui named several ex-Séléka factions that are still recruiting children as a bargaining chip, releasing them in exchange for political gains. She lamented that as long as there is no functioning judicial system in the country, it is very hard to prevent crimes against children. Zerrougui further provided the Committee with several names of individuals that may meet the criteria for listing and suggested the Panel of Experts further investigate these cases (the names provided have already been suggested before by the Panel for listing).
The final report of the Panel of Experts was presented to the Committee on 20 November 2015. The Panel regards the prospects for peace and security in the CAR as still remote. Taking advantage of the lack of state authority, the anti-Balaka and ex-Séléka rebel groups continue to run parallel administrations in the west and east, respectively, taxing goods and profiting from natural resources. Another issue raised by the Panel was the work of spoilers, such as Bozize, who continue to undermine the political dialogue in Bangui. The Panel further noted that Bozize is travelling freely within the region despite being on the Committee’s sanctions list.
The annex to the report noted the very high numbers of incidents of sexual violence. In 2015, the UN Population Fund registered 13,329 cases of sexual assault and 7,517 cases of rape in the CAR.
The Committee adopted the recommendations contained in the report. In addition, during the meeting, the Panel of Experts presented the Committee with a list of four names and one entity to be listed (in addition to pending suggestions previously conveyed to the Committee).
On 17 December, the Committee added Haroun Gaye, one of the leaders of the FPRC acting in the PK5 neighbourhood, and Eugène Barret Ngaïkosset, an anti-Balaka leader, to the sanctions list at the request of France, the UK and the US. Both are considered as perpetrators of the violence that erupted in Bangui in late September 2015 and were listed for undermining the peace, violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law and targeting peacekeepers.
The chair of the Committee, Raimonda Murmokaitė (Lithuania), briefed the Council on the report on 14 December. Murmokaitė urged the Council to send a strong message to spoilers of the transitional process.
Human Rights-Related Developments
High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein released a statement on 11 December 2015 that condemned the ongoing inter-communal violence and increasing use of sectarian language in the country, warning that this could have dramatic consequences given the highly volatile pre-election atmosphere. Zeid also urged the state authorities to reform, vet and train troops of the national army, and to investigate the increasing number of human rights violations they have been accused of committing.
Also on 11 December, MINUSCA published its first report on the human rights situation, pursuant to Security Council resolutions 2149 and 2217, jointly with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Covering September 2014 to May 2015, the report found that despite a general improvement during the reporting period, human rights violations continued on a daily basis. At least 785 people, including 88 women and 43 children, were victims of human rights violations, including killings, torture, abductions and sexual violence. These violations were mainly the result of armed groups acting with impunity in parts of the country.
Renewing the sanctions regime will be an immediate task for the Council in January.
Monitoring the security situation and the political developments closely and reconfiguring MINUSCA’s operations and priorities accordingly will be an ongoing issue.
Ensuring successful and inclusive elections to end the transition period, beginning necessary institutional reforms and expanding state authority to the whole country will remain important issues.
A likely option is to renew the sanctions regime. A related option for the 2127 Committee is to list further individuals and entities whose names were submitted to the Committee by the Panel.
Another option for the Council is to assess whether any adjustments and long-term planning regarding MINUSCA’s presence and tasks are necessary after the elections.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members are hoping that holding successful, free and fair elections will provide momentum, under a newly elected government, to move forward and address some of the fundamental issues facing the country, including disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration and security sector reform programs, accountability measures and re-establishing state authority and institutions, including incarceration facilities and judicial institutions.
One sanctions-related issue is the repeated request by the CAR transitional government for the Committee to allow the arming of the Forces armées centrafricaines (FACA). However, Council members have generally taken the view that until security reforms commence and the FACA is vetted for anti-Balaka elements, it would be dangerous to provide the FACA with arms.
During the 14 December 2015 consultations, Russia, New Zealand and Malaysia raised concerns over the fact that despite the high voter registration numbers in the CAR itself, refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan have not been allowed to register. As these refugees are mainly Muslim, there is a concern that this may affect Muslim representation in the election results.
France is the penholder on the CAR. Ukraine will succeed Lithuania as chair of the Sanctions Committee
UN Documents on the CAR
|Security Council Resolution|
|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.|
|Security Council Presidential Statement|
|20 October 2015 S/PRST/2015/17||This was a presidential statement expressing its deep concern about the recent upsurge of violence and instability in the CAR and reiterating the importance of holding the constitutional referendum and first rounds of presidential and legislative elections by the end of 2015.|
|Security Council Letters|
|19 November 2015 S/2015/895||This was from the President of the Council to the Secretary-General on a temporary troop increase for MINUSCA through inter-mission cooperation.|
|17 November 2015 S/2015/894||This was from the Secretary-General to the President of the Council on a temporary troop increase for MINUSCA through inter-mission cooperation.|